Hello! Lovely to see you! Here you will find random posts about living a creative life in country Australia. I am an illustrator. I create, take photos, faff, collect, teach. Watercolour, collage, colour, cheese, travel and dreaming are my faves. And Turkish delight. And cushions. And gardening. And op-shops...

Thursday, 12 November 2015

#mychildhood #shareaustralia for Kidspot Voices of 2015




That's me swinging at my grandparents as a kid in the pink dress with chubby knees,with Dad and  some awesome red shoes, and  with the cat (looking not too pleased to be on the swing.) The others are my kids !


#mychildhood
#shareaustralia
for Kidspot Voices of 2015

Childhood - that part of your life that is the bedrock for whatever follows. Where nature and nurture cannot be easily separated. Now as a parent myself, to 3 little people, the ENORMITY of how important this part of their life is is ever present. How the hell do we get it right? No manual came with my babies!

So we (hubby and I) cherry-pick the advice, ideas,  strategies, viewpoints and experiences that we think fit best, and hope like crazy we are doing okay. 

Now that I know how hard this parenting gig is, I look back on my own childhood and am gobsmacked at all the wonderful things my parents did for my siblings and I. I think YES, these are some of the things I want for my own kids, these are the things I want to emulate!

So I have. Mind you, it is a tall order - I am not exaggerating or boasting when I say that my childhood was one of those lucky ones. Safe, secure, a tight family unit with  parents who worked hard in good jobs. They were both teachers, and our house was full to the brim with art, books, souvenirs from travels, posters from exhibitions, galleries and museums we had been to, colour and loads of interesting curios. We had fantastic holidays, overseas and within Australia, we were always going off camping, having picnics and BBQ's, going for walks and seeing new things. It was a rich, lush tapestry of experiences. 

The black and whites are me as a bub with my Mum and Dad. That's me too with the roly poly thing looking like  I have my hand up answering a question. The other pics are my hubby and I with our son and middle daughter on picnics. So cute! ( I seem to like stripes?) By the way, see that teddy thing I am munching on in one of these pics, it was imaginatively called "Teddy". Remember it.

Today my siblings, like me, are creative and imaginative, with a lust and curiosity about the world, and I have to believe a lot of it came from the way we were raised. 

Even more amazing is that I was conceived while my mum was still a schoolgirl, and my dad a young Uni student. It was a shotgun wedding, with me as the facilitator of their union. 45 years later, these two though, (despite all the naysayers) are still in love, still married, committed,  having adventures, travelling the world and learning. Pretty great role models to have, don't you think? 

So please indulge me while I get a bit sentimental, and stroll down memory lane. I'd love you to come with me, really. I'll try not to bore you too much!

Imaginative kids... playing dress ups.From top left - Me as a kid (go the red high heels, my youngest (more red heels), my brother, my sister and I ( me on the bottom! ), my two adorable girls carrying on the tradition. 

My early years were spent around Maitland and Beresfield,(on the outskirts of Newcastle). I spent lots of time with my Paternal Grandparents in Maitland, being spoiled with love, sung to sleep in a rocking chair and playing with their black labrador, Snoopy. My Nan also managed a cinema, and I have vivid memories of being in the candy shop, the thrill of sneaking peeks at the movies, and being given the odd sly treat. Later, living in Beresfield highlights included hanging at the local pool and walking home through the Beresfield crematorium on a dare! Then, when  I was going into 4th class,at about age 9 we moved to Newcastle.


     The top photo on the left, is me with that Teddy I was munching on in another photo. It's that yellow thing. And that scary looking thing with the white eyes below that photo... that is Teddy today. Poor Teddy.These are momentous of my childhood - my Game boys, red sunglasses (my Great Grandmother and Aunty with me) postcard from my dad, a fan from Bali circa 1975, a sketch I did as a kid, a flower girl doll and some random lady my Mum and I in the dresses that match the doll from the same wedding.

My parents are still there, still living in the family home, on the edge of a brilliant nature reserve called Blackbutt. It is a green, native bush oasis, with picnic areas and walking tracks. It's a great place, and gets better every year, even now. Perfect for my greenie parents and lucky us - as kids we spent hours exploring there, pretending we were lost in some wild jungle, or making cubby houses, collecting bush tucker and hunting down wild animals(!)
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      Climbing... me with the one red shoe, my son, and my two daughters.

Newcastle is a coastal town, so because it's only a short drive to the beach from the family home, my summers were inevitably spent hanging out at, Susan Gilmore (nudie!) Beach, Nobby's Beach... or some beach somewhere. Usually though it was Bar Beach. We would spend the day swimming, playing in rock pools, sticking our fingers into slimy anemones and watching them close up, collecting seastars, making castles and moats, jumping from rocks into waves, feeling the outgoing tide pull us around. We would get hot chips from the surf club drowning in sauce, and buy Splice ice blocks and Summer Rolls from the little shop near the car park on the way home. It was a cruisey way to spend the summer.

Beach memories - Terigal, Avoca, Kingscliff, Collaroy, Mystery Bay, Bar Beach, Fingal Bay. That's me in the middle row with the hairy bloke (Dad) and my Mum, and me trying to stop the paparazzi. The other photos are my hubby and I with our kids. And that's my dad now, wave jumping with my son.

I truly did not appreciate it at the time though, and as I became a teenager and self conscious, I actually loathed it with every fibre of my being. I hated wearing swimmers, and felt like everyone was looking at me and my awkwardly developing body. I hated the feel of sand stuck to my skin. I hated the tightness of sunburn, and I hated the way the rest of my family still loved it!

Then I moved away, far from this place, to where there is no beach and now I miss it.  When we go back to Newcastle, my heart is never fuller than when I watch my own kids jumping off the very same rock at Bar Beach that I did, and playing in the rock pools that I did. We buy hot chips and sit at Nobby's and watch the ships, and I feel nostalgic about my childhood. I breathe in the salt, and realise this nostalgia will  stay with me. I remind myself that I was  born in a hospital right on a beach in Newcastle(no longer there though, demolished after the Newcastle earthquake of 1989). So in my first week of life I would have breathed in that same salty Newcastle beach air. But I still hate wearing swimmers!

Going to the beach though was not the only family ritual. Some of my strongest childhood memories are of our camping trips, around bloody amazing and brilliant National Parks all over the place. Dharug, Warrumbungles, Crowdy Bay, Barrington Tops, Kanangra Boyd, Grampians, Myall Lakes, Oxley Wild Rivers, Warrabah, Lamington, Sturt, Fraser Island... these are just some of the of places we spent time at. 

Camping and hiking fun... from top left - My youngest daughter the grot, my sister Mum and I, me in the army poncho in the rain in the Grampians Nationa Park, Mum behind me, my sister sitting up higher, and last but not least my own little lovely family about to walk Cradle Mountain, Tasmania in the rain. We loved it! 

We camped and walked through rain forests, sand dunes, rocks, bush, dry desert, coastal heath, gibber rocks and salt lakes in rain, hail and sunshine. We went spotlighting at night (with me driving!) had raging campfires and ate lots of deb(mashed potato rehydrated with water...mmmmm...nom nom nom) and sucked back condensed milk in tubes.

Every school holidays, and most weekends, seemed to be some new adventure. Sometimes I longed to just stay home like other kids! But I always loved it, and I know how much this has added to my love and appreciation of nature, the environment, of wild places and my understanding that the world extends beyond the little space we live in during our everyday lives.


With this knowledge though comes the lure and desire to see the incredible wonders in our own country. This urge to get out and see it  has never diminished. With such a diversity of environments all around us, so many amazing places to explore, in a land so very vast(the only nation that is an entire continent, as well as being the largest island on Earth) even now, I love being a tourist in my own country.

And yes, I wish we did it more. I wish we had more money, more time, more energy. I also wish my kids looked out the window more... because yep, although I had GAMEBOYS to play with sometimes, in contrast these days I  battle with my kids over screens and devices continually. I am amazed at the way when we were kids, we just sat in the car, content to look out the window and daydream. It drives me TOTALLY BONKERS that my own kids can't seem to do that. And they do not spend hours outside, climbing trees, hanging about like ragamuffins in the street with other kids, rollerskating, riding my bike... you know, the things I did in my childhood. Sigh.


I remind myself though that we are doing the best we can. I remind myself that my kids are doing okay. That they do indeed do lots of the things that I did as a kid. We have travelled, including to Tassie numerous times, and Queensland. They go to their paternal grandparents and help Poppa in the garden, and pick flowers and go on swings. My girls go and raid their Nanna's garden. Just as I did, when I tenderly picked all my grandmother's geraniums, offering them up as gifts, graciously accepted despite me having denuded the entire garden! My lucky kids spend time with my parents too, who take them to zoos, galleries and museums, theatre shows bike rides, bush walks and mini-adventures.


From top left- my middle daughter as a flower girl at my her Aunty (my sister's) wedding, me as a flower girl at my Aunty's wedding, Mum and Dad and I at a garden wedding, and my little tribe in Tasmania at my sister's beautiful wedding. My kidshad just been found sneaking and eating all the chocolate from the table treats !

We go camping too, replicating my own adventures. Around Easter last year we embarked on a road trip to Broken Hill with my parents. 

Broken Hill is totally fascinating, and is Australia's first national heritage listed city, but what made going here truly meaningful to us, even more exciting, was that my maternal grandfather spent his own childhood here. As a family we discovered my great grandparent's grave, saw the school grandpa had attended, and found the location where my grandfather grew up between Broken Hill and Silverton ( Australia'a outback Hollywood!) I built a little sculpture there, and laid some bleached bones down as a tribute to them. 

His parents, my great grandparents, did it tough in that beautiful, sparse, harsh place. Grandpa rode to ride to school on a bike with rope tyres, 25km each way! It really put it into perspectives how cushy my own childhood was, my kids childhood too... and they got it. We sat and watched the sun go down together, my kids and I, discussing what it would have been like to live there, with the bazillion flies, and heat and cold. And no screens.


Outback adventures - from top left-my feet, me sitting on a sand dune, my youngest at sunset, my eldest reaching a summit on a walk in Mutawinji National park, bleached bones for remembering, my dad and my middle daughter,creek bed walking both in Mootwingee, campfire breakfast in tupperware bowls circa 1985, temporary sculpture, I made last year near the place my grandfather lived outside of broken Hill .


A few days later we camped and hiked in the rugged Mutawinji National Park, rich in Aboriginal culture and dominated by the rocky Bynguano Range. The rusty cogs turned,jarring in my brain memories, sights and sounds...  from when we did similar things in my youth. Seeing my kids here - No wifi, not a device in sight, grotty with red dirt, spotting roos, getting firewood, toasting marshmallows around the campfire... was awesome sauce.  Brilliant.


But that's not the only thing we have done that harks back to my childhood. For example.. .


We've taken them overseas too, and are soon to head off on another trip.


Our house is full to bursting with books, colour, art, curios and interesting things.

We take them to the beach(okay, not as much as I used to go there as a kid...)as often as we can.

We take them to galleries, museums and on picnics.

I yell at them to "Shut that bloody door, you were not born in a tent!" the way my mum did. 

I nag them continually to clean their rooms(oh mum, I am so sorry...guess you call this sweet karma!)

Perhaps the weirdest thing, or funniest, is that my Dad was a high school teacher. Guess what my husband is? My mum was a primary teacher. Guess what I do? Yep, same same. Freaky.

Overseas memories - top left, getting familiar with local wildlife - monkey on my back, Indonesia, my kids on an elephant, Thailand. My brother and I with a local Javanese lady, my kids with our tuk-tuk driver, Bangkok.


And yet... we live very differently my parents too.Of course.Hubby and I have chosen a different path in many ways, with different influences, and different choices. And that's okay. We are doing the best we can in our very own way. There are many many things about me that my parents do not understand, that are not part of the way I was brought up, as I have gone on to become my own person, still finding my way. Still stumbling through parenthood and life. 

But in my heart, my soul, my bones... there is always that hankering to be in the bush, to travel, to camp, to have books around me, to fill my space with memories, to collect them, to have my family around me. And I know that my childhood is the reason I see things like I do. I know that. 

And I am so grateful, so very, very grateful.

PS. On that trip to Broken Hill... we bought home a little souvenir. A puppy. A black labrador. Just like the one my Granparents had. Fancy that. And you know, I did not even realise until later. Sigmund would have a field day!