I have just given my kids the summer of my childhood.
The summer that sets the scene for all other summer’s to fall obediently in behind it. The pace, the usual suspects, the melancholic flow, the location . . . the perfect formula all now laid out before them for summers to come. And all oh-so familiar to me.
I was one of the lucky kids, the bulk of my childhood holidays were spent beach-side.
My particular girt by sea was the tiny town of Port Fairy in Victoria. Grandma’s house provided the open-all-hours kitchen, and the town laid itself lazily out for my siblings and I to roam freely.
These were the summers of peeling strips of sunburn, living in bathers, the squelch of thongs on melting bitumen, lugging buckets of bait and hand reels, late night book reading by torch and the fine grate of sand in the sheets.
This summer I pulled back the towel on those memories.
I packed up my squids and took them back to Port Fairy to camp with long-lost cousins. While the old haunts may have been tarted up somewhat, the briny smell of the mudflats, the lonely cry of curlews and the thwack of fresh caught fish on the jetty had me standing slap-bang in the middle in my memories. Front row tickets to my childhood, with its shiny promise.
Life was always better at the beach.
We followed this sojourn up with lazy deck days back home on the Mornington Peninsula and an extended sailing trip on the Gippsland Lakes, the beach our constant companion.
I watched my children’s days stretch yawningly out ahead of them, spoilt for choice, for playmates, for adventures that drifted along.
But they weren’t holding up each second in awe as I was. I felt nostalgic for my own past summers, while I knew they were impatient to hurtle into the next moment.
I have no doubt though that they will pause in adult years to recall building shelters in the sand-dunes, keeping count of dead Shearwaters, slapping paw paw ointment on surfing rashes and watching for crab traps to be pulled out.
American author Charles Bowden wrote “Summer time is always the best of what might be”. In my memories and now, I know this to be true.
Summer is life’s time capsule, preserving the moments when we pause and we play.
Bowden was writing of my childhood, and the summers to come for my own children….the best of what might be. It is the best that I can give them.