Oct 14, 2010
#30before30: Revisit Your Childhood
This particular #30before30 task was quite … quaint. I was challenged to go back to where I grew up, and recall some events of my childhood. Here's a video of my visit, and here's a somewhat scattered memoir of 15 or so years of life in Pine Rivers, on Brisbane’s northside, in the late '80s and '90s.
I am your classic middle-class child of the 1980s. My family had a pool. We travelled overseas. My Dad got a new company car every few years (always Holdens), and being a nautical family, often had boats. We even got a SuperNintendo in the early 90s.
By sheer luck of birth I wound up doing better than probably 95% of people on Planet Earth. Sure, my family had its own oddities and occasional hard times, but by and large, I had everything I could ever need and in most cases, want.
Sometimes I feel so guilty for having this stupidly blessed childhood and adolescence. But it’s not my fault. My parents worked hard to provide the best they could for us... ideally, every person who becomes a parent would do the same. Indeed, most want to, and do their best with whatever resources they have. When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand that different parents had different levels of resources.
I understand that a bit better now even though I could never say that I’ve truly struggled financially. I’m grateful to my parents for investing so much of their resources in me.
We moved to Brisbane at the end of 1986, to a brick house on 2.5 acres at Albany Creek. Back then, the Creek was still semi-rural. There were fields with cows in them. When the McDonald’s went in around 1992, we knew we’d finally made it as a suburb. These days it’s an uber-suburb, with housing development after housing development.
My childhood home, christened “Tara” by my Irish-born mother, was a wonderful place to grow up. Lots of land, and a big rumpus room for game and dress-up days with local kids. My favourite was “shops”. My mum bought me a giant antique adding machine and I used to love counting numbers. It makes me wonder why I ended up doing so poorly at mathematics.
Tara is now part of the Good Shepherd Baptist Church commune. They were always there; in fact, they used to do baptisms in our pool. My brother and I would watch secretly from upstairs as fully-clothed adults were dunked backwards into the water, while the rest sang hymns of praise. In the 10 or so years since my parents sold them our house, they’ve torn down fences and built basketball courts, a printing press, and thrown up a bunch of smaller domiciles for church families and visiting preachers.
I went to Albany Hills State School, then St Paul’s School in Bald Hills for secondary. A private education, no less, but it didn’t stop me hating the place on more than one occasion. The school only started accepting girls the year I started, 1993. There were virtually no resources, and no interest in girlish pursuits, even sporting ones. All the money went to rugby. To this day I’m still a bit resentful of rugby, and its old schoolboy ties.
I myself wasn’t athletically inclined, but developed a fondness for hockey and volleyball. I also discovered a brilliant way of scoring trophies despite not being a competent sportswoman – by chanting war cries and yelling supportive slogans, I took out several “Best Team Spirit” awards.
Of course all this on-field dramatics was matched by in-theatre dramatics – for it was in high school that I became a true drama geek. I was so distraught in Year 11 at not being cast in the school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I got hauled into the Dean of Students’ office for a lecture on dignified behaviour. It took me a long time to learn that lesson. To be honest, it still hasn’t really sunk in.
High school seems to be a confusing time for everyone. For me, the confusion seemed to grow out of a Hermoine Granger-like tendency to want to be the smartest and best at everything. I was a nerd, and used to get upset if my marks were less than I thought they should be. Except maths: I wound up failing the final exam, but was doing well enough in English, History and my other subjects to justify not caring about the numbers.
Not being particularly popular drove me crazy too. Of course, what happens when you TRY to be popular? You fail. And I never tried things that might make me popular, such as joining classmates for post-school cones, or spending weekends jamming with backyard bands, or even just chilling the hell out and not giving a crap about what people thought.
But oh well. Maybe I would’ve been a more interesting person if I’d done those things. Chances are it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. What matters is that I had a very lucky and blessed childhood, which despite all my natural neuroses allowed me to progress into adulthood with my head relatively well screwed on. And although my parents remain very kind and generous people, looking back, perhaps that was the best 30th birthday present they could have given me.