I enjoy my daily dose of social media, but about six months ago, I found myself trawling through a Facebook feast of tropical islands, European holidays and other amazing, exciting adventures… all of which made me feel, if I’m perfectly honest, unhappy. And jealous.
I had felt like this for some time, but on this day, I felt challenged to respond differently. It seems horrible that I wasn’t happy for my holidaying friends. It’s also easy to say that the solution is to save money and travel abroad myself. “Follow your dreams”, so to speak. For many though, that’s just not a financial reality.
Honestly, I feel guilty about my kids missing out. I wish we could take them overseas. I wish we’d done some amazing trip somewhere and now … time is slipping away. They’re getting older and will soon go their own way.
So here’s what I decided: to marry the reality of my situation with these feelings, and to simply remind myself to be thankful.
I reminded myself that I live in a beautiful country. There is so much of Australia I haven’t seen, not to mention the beauty that surrounds me right where I live. I told myself that if I never get to explore another country again, I can be so grateful for the privileged life I live. I must choose to be thankful, and not to compare. Finally, I want to rejoice in the opportunities others have and not to simply compare my life with theirs.
When I think back to my own childhood, I have many wonderful memories. Like all of us, not all good, but in reality, I have lived a charmed life. I am one of eight children, raised by remarkable parents. I had a privileged education, but we never travelled. I think we went on one holiday to Melbourne when I was in primary school – we swapped houses with another family that had six kids. Other than that I never really ventured outside New South Wales.
What I do remember about my family holidays was Mollymook. Every summer, after Christmas, we packed our bags, our new Christmas bikinis, beach towels and the cricket set, and we headed down the South Coast. We stayed in an uncle’s holiday house – olive green weatherboard, set on a bushy block in a small coastal suburb. It was small, with two bedrooms, a quaint kitchen and a wonderful deck out the back where us girls tried to sun bake when we weren’t at the beach.
The memories are still so special. I imagine part of what I loved was the opportunity to live simply – read all day if I wanted, laze around, go to the beach and eat sausages and mash potato for dinner most nights. There was no takeaway, no telly, not even a phone. Occasionally we’d venture into Milton to Sunday Service or to the cinema. What a treat.
I remember the retro drinking glasses with the colourful prints on them and the trips to the supermarket to replace the ones we broke. I remember sleeping four in the bedroom, beds and bunks all carefully assembled like a gridlocked traffic jam, and the excitement of occasionally being allowed to sleep in the lounge room instead.
I remember one night my baby brother cried for hours in the cot in Dad and Mum’s room as we all lay awake for hours, unable to sleep until he settled. I remember my sister and I grumbling to each other that Dad wouldn’t let us go to the beach until the sun was getting low and when we finally did, he lathered us with the strongest ‘blockout’ that money could buy. Dad was a doctor who had seen enough melanoma to know he didn’t want us to end up with skin cancer, but it ruined our teenage dreams of cooking ourselves with coconut oil in the hot midday sun.
I remember the day we took portraits of us all wearing fabulous seaweed wigs, emerging from the surf, posing like supermodels and sea monsters.
Here’s Lucy and I – total beach babes.
And I remember the challenge of climbing Pigeon House Mountain and the exhilarating feeling of triumph when we got to the top and found the crazy bus stop someone had hauled all the way up there. It was an opportunity only given to us as we got older, when Dad felt we were up for the task. So here we are – evidence of our climb and victory at the top!
Every memory, good or bad, is part of the charm I carry with me in my heart whenever I think of my childhood summers.
My husband and I were driving up the coast from Melbourne oearly in our marriage, and we decided to go and see the little house. We parked in the driveway, we sat there for a minute… and then I burst into tears.
Memories are powerful. It doesn’t seem to matter where your favourite memories were when you were a child, how much they cost, or whether you got to see the world or just a little back beach hours from home. So I don’t think one person’s memories are more valuable than another’s, just because they’re more fancy or more significant by the world’s standards.
I’ll choose to be content and grateful, and in this technological age where the whole world seems so accessible, I’ll teach my children to do the same: to savour the simple things in life, to enjoy being together and be grateful for what they have right now. If time and money allow them adventures in the bigger world, that’s wonderful. I’ll rejoice in their opportunities.