4.12.11

When I was young...

My first memory is as a toddler, strapped on to my mothers back, tramping along a river. The sun is hiding behind the leaves and the water is calm, green, dappled with sunlight. We are walking upstream, and I remember being fascinated at the way the light danced on the water.
I remember being 5. Having grown up together,  my cousins and I swim in thier pool in the nude over summer, running around and playing Marco Polo for endless hours. 
I remember being 7 and my sister and I having wrestling competitions on my parents bed. She  always beats me, except for when we get older and she occasionally lets me win.
At 9, I am riding scooters down my friends driveway, burning my heels on the brakes and daring myself to ride down from the very top of the hill.
When I am 10, I run away from home for the first and only time. It is a late summer afternoon, and I am enraged and frustrated that my family 'just don't understand me.' I run over to the plum tree that borders our neighbours property, and climb to the top, planning on hiding all night to make my point. When Mum calls out the window to me half an hour later, asking me to clean my room, I am baffled at the fact that she hasn't noticed my absence. I never run away again.
I am 12, and building forts and dugouts in the forest behind my best friends house. We explore the native bush, swinging over ponds and constructing hideouts alongside the creek.
At the age of 13, when my sister is 16, we climb on top of the water tank, picking plums off the tree. With plum juice running down our chins, we  have pip-spitting competitions to see who can get their pips the as far along the garage roof as possible.
I am 14, and surprised with my first kiss. Under the stars, for that one moment, I think that life could not be any more perfect (until I later find out that he has a girlfriend).


 Last night, at my cousins 21st, I looked around and saw how everyone had grown up. We are all at university, or working full time. The Pony Club paddocks we spent years playing in have now been developed in to lifestyle blocks. The creek I used to pick blackberries by has now been cleared and cut back. The kids I grew up with are no longer kids. My two best friends from intermediate and high school are both engaged...all the adventures seem a life-time ago. Yet there is so much to remember, so much that I am afraid to forget.

I think my favourite memory of being a kid was when Dad used to take us all over to Tasmania to visit my Baba in the school holidays. Excited to be in Australia and full of notions of spiders and snakes and the great Outback, my sister and I would pack a lunch, find the perfect hiking stick, and set off on an adventure around the paddocks behind Baba's property. I think the most exciting thing we found were scorpions in Grandad's old glasshouse, or perhaps the time I got bitten by a fire ant when I was climbing the silo's on the neighbours farm. But, for just a moment, I would feel like a great explorer, discovering new worlds and at one with Mother Nature as I clambered and climbed through Baba'a magnificent gardens, picking blackberries and warily watching out for snakes.


 The other day I was at the beach eating a picnic dinner with some friends. I went for a walk and climbed on to the rocks, and while I was looking out in to the harbour with the wind in my face, I suddenly realised how blessed I am to live in a place of such beauty. I miss the outdoors so much - I seem to have forgotten the joy that I got from being covered in dirt and in amongst the trees as a kid. That swelling of my heart as I breath in the salty ocean, the smile that is inevitable as the sun warms me. That feeling that says..."Olivia. You are home." 

I hope I never forget it.


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