You don’t know what you’ve got till it's gone, Joni Mitchell counseled. The languid Christmas School holiday memories of my childhood are a “happy place” to which I can retreat and reminisce but far from it being “gone”, this year, I reclaimed the summer.
I’ve craved the tranquil pace and rhythm of the long summer holiday for many years. Now my granddaughter is 8 years old, nostalgia is superseded by the reality of sharing holidays with her.
Having 6 weeks stretch before you when you start your holiday every year is something you take for granted as a child. There’s the excitement and anticipation as the last week of school closes in and routine and rules become a little rubbery. Sometimes we didn’t wear school uniform on the last day of school and recess and lunch times were extended for no reason other than we were winding down. It all helped to set us up for the relaxed holiday ahead.
For most of us, that luxurious indulgence of the 6 week summer holiday is whipped away from you as an adult. This summer, I relived the experience.
This summer, I lazed away my time at Port Macquarie on the NSW mid north coast, more specifically at Flynns Beach. I spent a Christmas holiday with my family at Flynns Beach when I was 8 years old and now, by happy coincidence, my granddaughter is 8.
We were able to replicate the simple pleasure of getting to the beach just before mid morning, before the afternoon sea breeze arrived and before the intensity of the midday sun. Most days were brilliant blue, but there was the occasional slightly overcast day when we were caught out with sunburn, remarking, as you do, that you get more burned when the sun is behind the clouds.
We would get out of the water and turn out cups full of sand from our swimming costumes after being dumped or from lolling about in the shallows or being buried in the sand or from making enormous sand castles purely for the pleasure of jumping on them and rolling around in the sand. We’d spit sand from our mouths and crunch grains between our teeth as we bit into an apple.
We showered under cold water at the surf club. Why is that water so much colder than the ocean? We made the short walk back home, hats askew, bedraggled hair, carrying towels heavy with water and sand, hoping our sandy feet would dry and the sand would shake off before we got home. You know the drill: hang out your towels and swimmers. Put on some loose and comfy clothes and laze, feeling so pleasantly tired and relaxed and grateful to retreat from the elements, in the comfort of lounge chairs or floor cushions, with a book, in front of the TV or now, with the iPad!
I recall that my holiday at Flynns as a child was when I mastered the skill of when to duck under and when to dive over a wave. “Never turn your back on the surf”, my dad would say as he picked me up out of the sand after a dumper. It was the year I learned to love the surf. As my granddaughter said to me this year, ”Grandma, I love it when the waves smash you”.
Fresh bread rolls collected from the bakery en route home are filled with salad for lunch and maybe there is an ice cream secreted in the freezer for afterwards.
For my dad there was, and now for me, the exquisite pleasure of making it back home from the beach in time to see the first ball bowled in the Boxing Day Test. Its the opportunity to allow yourself to actually watch a few sessions of the cricket, not just keep an ear to it. To authenticate the cricket experience we’d head back to the beach in the relative cool of the afternoon, after a snooze and play a bit of cricket with whoever was around and share a few laughs at Grandma’s expense. Ahh the joys of summer.
To watch my granddaughter enjoy the power of being 8 is a thrill. She is mastering so many skills that give her pleasure and a sense of competence. She is striding her way towards independence.
So much has changed in the 50 years since I was 8, but so much has stayed the same. The joy of being 8 has not diminished and the simple joy of a summer, beach holiday is not gone. It is alive and well at Flynns Beach, even when you are 58.
- Deborah Church