I’m listening to music that is all levels of bad. For one thing, it’s Australian. For another, it’s from the (very) early 90s. AND it’s a girl band. Singing pop.
But I’m honestly loving it. The music reminds me of that incredibly pure time in my life – when I was living in Sydney with my mother and two sisters. I say pure because I don’t have to filter it of upsets or crises – minor or major – to really enjoy the memories. I just remember being… happy. No ‘buts’. Just happy.
This was about 20 years ago, and as worrying as it is to be able to say that about any point in my life, I remember it all so well. I see the memories like old polaroids – over exposed, with a fading sort of hyper colour, but still retaining the simple pleasure of the images they’ve captured. Polaroids should never go out of style. But I digress.
I remember the smell of a sunny weekend morning, walking to the shops holding my mother’s hand. We’d buy candy at the newsagents. My sisters and I would stare longingly at Tilly’s, the art shop, hankering after the glitter and coloured pens. If we were good we’d get VHS videos at the rental store – one I remember in particular: ‘The God’s Must Be Crazy’.
I remember planting that bottle brush tree outside our house with my mum. She taught me how to pat the soil around it and how to water it every now and then – although it was usually her watering and me playing skip with the hose. I remember how it grew over the years. Now, 20 years later, it is a massive tree, bursting with fluffy red flowers.
I remember the corner-shop just up the road from my place. My mum would send me there to get danish pastries and baklavas when we felt like indulging. Sam, the owner, who I think was Lebanese or something, used to slip an extra danish in the bag for me and give me a quick hug before letting me trip on back home. That was before the weight-related insecurities, when I was too young to know what dieting and carbs and calories even meant. Every sweet that touched my lips was savored without an ounce of guilt mixed in with the ingredients. Ah, heaven.
I remember sitting on my bed, with a framed photograph of my father, crying because I missed him. I remember writing him letters with my sisters and reading his letters back to us. Afterwards, we would put them safely into a grey pocket folder that we each had, carefully, because they were so precious. I also remember how we threw ourselves into decorating the house to welcome him when he came to visit. The ‘welcome home’ sign, which grew rather grubby over time; the random snow man cut out that we’d blue-tac strategically over a stain on the wall.
I remember playing dress up with my two sisters. We had a bunch of hideous clothes that we used only to play in. That flowery skirt we all used to fight over. My big sister usually got it because she was the oldest – that logic made sense at the time. My second favorite was a pair of bright red tights which had runs all the way down it – my idea of utter sophistication at the time. Shudder.
I remember my regular clothes too, at least my favorite ones. There was this red and white striped jumper that was too big for me, and I used to want to wear it to school every day, much to my mother’s consternation. It was stained and old but I was too young to care what I looked like then, and I loved it because it kept me so warm.
I remember playing on the sofa with my sisters while my mother vacuumed the house. We weren’t allowed to get down until she was done, but that was ok because it was our favorite playground, which we transformed from being the inside of a bus, office or classroom, according to our whim. We did our bit too though – my job was cleaning the fridge and I took it very seriously. I even have photographs to prove it.
I remember our outdoor showers – my mother would make rain with the hose while my sisters and I, donned in our swim suits would run around squealing with our massive Shepherd dog BJ in tow.
I remember watching Baywatch (then brand new) and Melrose Place at five years old and not understanding much at all. I just remember thinking David Hasslehoff was the beautifulest man in the world when he ran around on the beach like that.
I remember our neighbour, this Amazonian Greek lady we simply called ‘Aunty’, who used to make us Greek biscuits which I really hated. She was fun though, and took care of me and my family when I decided to get chicken pox and generously give it to my mother and sisters. They came down with it just as I recovered, so I would go shopping for medicine, Calamine Lotion and Sustagen (loved that) with Aunty so that I could take care of them.
I remember learning to write my own surname! My mother would make us sit at the table in our backyard porch and practice so we’d be able to do it when we went to school. Incidentally, my school had never seen a surname so long and we even got extra time during exams so that we could write it! We learnt our times-tables in the same way. And thank god for that – I knew my times-tables up to 12 by heart before I was in year 2 I think. Stood me in good stead well into my teens and even now when I do the odd calculation.
And I remember the music. I remember singing Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ on the way to visit my aunt – who I was convinced actually *was* Whitney Houston, because they had the same hair. Apart from that, I remember waking up at 6 am every day with my twin, edging along the corridor, pasted to the wall so we wouldn’t set off the alarm (we were small enough to manage it at the time), and putting on the TV to watch ‘Rage’- the music show playing at the time. I actually think it’s still around. I even the remember the CDs we used to listen to: Mariah Carey’s ‘Vision of Love’ album. Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ album, Simply Red’s ‘Stars’ album – and what I’m listening to now, which just belonged to my sisters and I – Girlfriend’s ‘Make It Come True’ album. With songs like “It’s a Girl’s Life” and “Bad Attitude”. Which, I have to say, I still love – I listened to it yesterday after probably over a decade and still remembered all the words (yes, even to the white-girl raps) and the trills and everything.
There are hundreds more of these memories to choose from – some of them are a little fuzzier now than they used to be, while others retain their photograph-like clarity. They aren’t particularly special memories, except to me, and I’m sure everyone has similar ones from their own childhoods. The thing that I love most about them though, is that they never grow old for me. They always make me feel the exact same way: young, excited and happy.
I wish I thought about that time in my life more often but the memories often tuck themselves away, allowing themselves to get buried by the things I think and worry about every day. But every now and then, they resurface for a brief time – brought back by an old song perhaps, or a certain kind of sunlight, or maybe a snippet of conversation or a certain smell or taste. Whatever the reason though, it’s always nice to be reminded.