September 18, 2009
i noticed, as i we walked past the primary school that the spinkler was chugg, chugg, chugging in circles (grey or bore water, i'm presuming) and the scent of eucalyptus was strong. heady, almost. thrown back to my school days of running in spring and summer heat, school playground, gumnuts crushing underfoot.
My letterbox contained a parcel from Harpercollins Publishers, an uncorrected proof copy of Nikki Gemmell's new book: Why you are Australian - a letter to my children. Part memoir, part observation, Gemmell (who you may remember from years back on triple j, or more recently for the anonymously written The Bride Stripped Bare) decides to spend three months in Australia with her Notting Hill raised children. So they can squint there eyes in the sun, so they can run barefoot on the earth, so they can see stars in the clear night sky.
I put Ché to sleep, crept out to the verandah and sat in my swinging chair, my white, winter legs soaking up sun. 60 pages later I'm here writing this, because I couldn't wait.
Because that was me. I was born in England and when I was 2-and-a-half my parents decided to move to Australia because of the land, the sky, the water. The space. When I returned to England at seventeen I felt so grateful for the opportunity to grow up with a backyard and a hills hoist. Street cricket. To know so well the way sea water leaves traces of salt on my skin.
When I left school I couldn't wait to go back to the U.K. for the history, the culture. The bustling, dirty, grittiness of London. Every young university student wants to escape the bogan life of Australia, don't they. If you stay, you're stuck. If you leave, you're seeking opportunity, growth and experience. I went a few times and came back. I loved London, I loved the grey sky, the dark cafes. I loved the art galleries and the old, old streets. But I missed the expanse and the air of home. I missed the way the grass turns brown in a hot summer.
I'm so proud to live here. And to be raising my child here. Last night, when I put him to bed, che pulled to blind away from the window and saw the stars and the moon. In the clear, black sky. "Oh, luna," he said. Early this morning, just after sunrise, and just before the garbage trucks emptied our ottos, he woke me up and said: Muma, kookaburararara. Those beautiful birds were singing and calling, our morning song.
Thanks Mum and Dad, for bringing me here. And thank you Miss Gemmell, for reaffirming with us all that Australia is wondrous and beautiful. How blessed we are to raise our children here. So they know the earth and the sky. They can smell the seasons. As I can smell summer today - and look forward to paddle pops, frosty fruits, bubble-o-bills. The culture of summer ice-creams is wonderful. Sweet, sweet nostalgia.