I had a privileged childhood.
I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but now I recognise it for what it was.
· food aplenty.
· a pretty house.
· a lovely mum - admittedly, she played ‘Kum Ba Ya’ on the guitar and made dodgy household items from pottery, but she meant well.
· a lovely dad - who was possibly the clumsiest man on earth, but he meant well, too.
· toys and bikes.
· a public pool two blocks away.
· a goodly-sized back yard.
Aah! The backyard.
Men and women we grew up with, now in their late forties and early fifties, reminisce about our back yard, their eyes glazing over, their mouths twitching at the sides. (Smiles or anxiety? Who knows?)
Poor Mummy Darling Heart. She should have withheld the lime cordial and jam drops and put a lock on the gate. But she didn’t. She let all of our friends hang out in the back yard.
And when I say ‘hang out’, I really mean run amok.
For this yard of ours had:
· a three storey tree house - the first storey was built by my dad when he shoved a freighting crate in the fork of the plum tree and cut a trap door at the base, the second storey was built by my brother and the third storey was created by me. I say ‘created’ because it was a free-form deck that tottered across the branches at the top of the tree and was covered in a psychedelic mural.
· a fire pit - where we were allowed to light real fires. My mum would even drive us out to the bush to fill the boot with sticks and stumps so we had plenty of fuel. We toasted marshmallows, cooked sausages on sticks and baked potatoes and damper in the ashes.
· a flying fox - made with little more than two soaring trees , a length of rope and my brother’s lust for speed and danger.
· an incinerator - made from a forty four gallon drum . More fire to play with! Mwah-ha-ha!
· a seasonal supply of rotten plums - from the tree house tree. Great for battles, squelching between your toes or chucking at the neighbour’s nasty dog when he tried to bite us through the fence.
· a Hills Hoist clothesline - which spun like a dream … until I hung too heavily on a blanket and bent one corner down to the grass. It never had the same free and easy glide after that.
· a dog called Mustang.
· a cockatoo called Joe.
· a large and messy shed - full of all sorts of junk and treasures with which we could build and invent stuff. The giant wooden tool box made for a great hiding spot during Spotlight or Hide and Seek and the roof was high enough for making parachute jumps. It’s a shame my brother’s parachutes never opened, but one learns from ones mistakes as well as one’s successes.
· rampant honeysuckle vines - so thick that we could run along the top of them or shelter from rain beneath them.
· a kikuyu lawn - on which you could roll and wrestle and fall without ripping too much skin off your knees.
But really, I think the most wonderful thing about our back yard was my mum. And she wasn’t even in it most of the time. Which was, I suppose, the whole point.
Our mum was unique. She was the mother who made everyone welcome but kept out of sight. As a rule, she did not interfere unless we needed fire wood or professional medical help.
Suffice it to say that dogs bit, bones broke, shins bruised, naughty words were screeched and tears flowed freely. But we survived. In fact, we had a hoot of a time. We grew strong and fit and happy and healthy in that back yard. We learned to solve problems and settle our own arguments.
Furthermore, we grew up to be responsible, intelligent adults. Well, I’m responsible. My brother’s intelligent. Together, we make one successful adult and that has to count for something.
So I’ll leave you now to imagine a typical action-packed summer’s day in the backyard of 73 Edward Street.
Maybe some blog soon I’ll tell you about our fabulous family holidays and the risks one takes in travelling with an enthusiastic but clumsy dad …