Thursday, 22 June 2017

Reflections

A couple of weeks ago, I was out on the river doing a spot of fishing with Dad and it was glorious - sunshine, not a breath of breeze, and fish biting. This is Coolangatta Mountain highlighted by the sun's rays and reflected in the glass-like river. Magical day.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Childhood Memories Part 1

I've been reflecting on memories from childhood. I think this might take a few posts, so here's part 1.

Da cleaning blackfish, Woy Woy ~1983
My clearest childhood memories are of holidaying, and fishing, with my grandfather. And also our own holidays, each May, where Dad and I fished. Yet these aren't strong memories for my sister. I began to wonder why.

My grandparents used to rent a holiday cottage at Woy Woy, on NSW central coast, for 6 weeks in February-March each year. Relatives were allocated time slots for holidaying with them. We had a weekend slot. Nanna was one of 7 or 8 kids; and Da one of 5 or 6 (can't quite remember but it is written down!). Their brothers/sisters were invited (and with kids if they lived with them). Dad and his brother and sister had slots. A few very good friends also had invitations. I'm not sure that Nanna and Da spent any time alone on their holidays. It was always like this.

The holiday house I remember had a wharf out the front (it was probably a pre-requisite for their booking) and many hours were spent on that wharf fishing. When I reached the age of 13, I was allowed to go out in the boat black fishing (proper name of the fish is Luderick but I didn't know that for many years) with Da and Dad. That age could not come quickly enough even if Dad took us out fishing sometimes. Fishing with Dad was all well and good, but it wasn't black fishing with Da.

Da died when I was 23, so I only had 10 years of fishing with him. At most 2 days/year, so 20 days. I don't remember each trip in detail. I remember a few instances. It's more the whole feeling those days inspired that is my memory.

Those weekends were filled with fishing, and fishing-related activities. I can see myself siting next to Da on the divan on the corridor into the place. He has his legs wide apart, huge arthritic knees prominent, and he's bending over to the green weed that's on a hessian bag between his feet that are encased in his scuffed old slip ons. He's sorting the green weed into good stuff for bait, and bad stuff for burley. He's explaining to me what he's doing, or grouching at me for asking too many damn questions. My head is filled with that fresh, briny smell of the weed, and a scent that is my grandfather's.

Then we check the rods. Check the gear. I'm his shadow, peppering him with questions even as he growls at me. He gives me jobs to do, and I feel so important (and now I realise, he was probably giving me something to do so he had a break from me!). I built impressive sandcastles so he could mix in his 'bad' weed to make burley. They had to be just the right size, and then flattened on top. It took me years to master the art to his specifications and damn, did I feel proud when he praised my sandcastle. (Now I know you just mix sand with weed, there's no magic in the sandcastle specifications!). I'd then take his precious little trowel and fill a 'sugar bag' with the burley that he'd mixed through my sandcastle. I don't think he ever allowed me to mix it - or maybe when I was an adult once! I had to get ever skerrick of weed - heaven help me if I left any behind.

He growled. He grouched. He yelled. He argued. I was always striving to do what he needed. I was always pretty sure of his love - even if he was incredibly grouchy, and sometimes scary!

I remember when quite young, getting up early and sliding into bed with Nanna and Da. My sisters and I loved that intimacy (is that the right word?) It was when Nanna protected us from Da's teeth that sat in a glass beside his bed and could jump out and bite us at any moment! Little did we know that Nanna's teeth were also in a glass nearby but hidden, and she didn't drop them off her gums and clack them in her mouth like Da did, terrifying us!

We always ate fish when we arrived. Fresh fish that Da had caught. A special fish for my sister who didn't like black fish and only ate bream. Nanna kept her fillet aside. It wasn't until I was well into my teens that I asked how Da always caught a bream for my sister when he only ever fished for black fish - I was sworn to secrecy!

Those weekends were filled with love and contentment. They nurtured me. I knew they were special. I treasured them. Yet, they occurred 23 times, at most. That's only 46 days. Many of those I'd not remember. I'm almost 50 years old now, and those memories are so very clear, yet those weekends haven't happened in 26 years. It seems crazy to have such strong memories about something that occurred so long ago and happened so infrequently.

Yet,  they were times when I could be myself. I could be outdoors, mix with the men, learn practical things that seemed important to survival, dress how I was most comfortable. I had space, freedom, and time to sit and think, or talk and question. They were days I cherish.

What are your strongest childhood memories?

My Recently Read List

  • Catherine McKinnon - Storyland
  • Sarah J Maas - A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • Anne Gracie - Marry In Haste
  • Emily Larkin - all her books
  • Sarah Schmidt - See What I Have Done
  • Lisa Ireland - The Shape of Us