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Autumn daydreams and segues April 21, 2008

Posted by dolorosa12 in books, childhood, fangirl, memories, subbing.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes I’m very in love with Aaron Timms, the Sydney Morning Herald columnist. I’ve been meaning to post this gem from his Friday column for some time. It appeals to my subs’ humour. It’s about ‘Aussie bands to watch’. My favourite is Subeditors: ‘A classic indie rock four-piece operating off a set of MacBooks in a garage out the back of Erskinville, Subeditors see it as their mission to cover the same lyrical territory as their British counterparts, Editors, only in a far more succinct fashion – removing commas, semicolons and excess verbiage wherever they appear. Their work covering Editors’ recent single Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors, in which they changed the line “The saddest thing that I’d ever seen/ Were smokers outside the hospital doors” to the far punchier “The saddest thing/ Was smokers” was met with critical acclaim.’ I laughed and laughed. So true. *attacks semicolons with a pair of scissors*

In other news this Facebook group cracks me up. I may have to join it. There really is a Facebook group for everything. I sometimes wonder what (pedantic, obsessive, bored) people did before the Internet. I really do.

Last night Mum, Mimi and I reminisced for about an hour about the picture books we read when Mimi and I were children. We really did have some awesome ones, and kept them all; they are slowly gathering dust on the bookshelves of my bedroom. There isn’t room to contain my gushings about these brilliant books (Graeme Base, Alison Lester, Tomie de Paola, Orlando the Marmalade Cat series, the Fox books, the Frances books, the Happy Families books Maira Kalman, Mystery on the Docks etc etc etc etc), so I will confine myself to one recollection. Book Week was a standard feature of my youth. Once a year, to coincide with the CBCA Book of the Year Awards, our school would hold a Book Day, when all the children had to dress up as book characters. One year, two of the short-listed books were Magic Beach by Alison Lester and Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham. They were both typical Australian picture books of the ’90s. Sandy Beach is utterly hilarious, and if you haven’t read it, you really should. It still cracks me up. It’s just about a girl’s weekend trip to the beach, and the randoms she meets along the way (including a busload of school kids and a bikie gang).

To cut a long story short, that year, our teachers said that if we had no inspiration for our Book Week costumes to dress up as something from one of the two ‘beach’ books. This of course meant that every boy in my class was dressed as a bikie. For seven years, Book Week dress-up day was the same. Some kids’ parents would go to enormous trouble, and the children would be wearing hand-made, intricate, over-the-top costumes good enough for a stage-play. Other parents would ensure their kids went as a character who could wear jeans and a white t. shirt. There would always be at least two kids who forgot and came in school uniform, and at least one boy inexplicably dressed as Batman or Spiderman in every class.

Such is the strength of this and other such memories that when I started talking about it with Mum and Mim, I began laughing hysterically. The laughter soon turned to tears.

It’s very hard to explain why such things still have the power to move me to tears. My feelings are reflected more widely, I think, in the fact that (for example), the largest Australia-based Facebook group (yes, there I go again) is I grew up in Australia in the 90s. It’s partly because I’ve always had a very strong sense of the passage of time, and feel every second of my childhood slipping away from me. But it’s also because I feel the past so strongly. I can remember exactly what it felt like, and yet it sometimes feels like I am looking at a movie of someone else’s life. Who was that solemn little girl who spent her mornings before school dancing to The Little Mermaid soundtrack, her afternoons climbing the magnolia and dogwood trees of her front garden and the evenings pretending to be the protagonist of A Little Princess? Who was that girl who could recite Yikes! by Alison Lester off by heart? Who set up obstacle course for her dolls and believed her herb garden was the grave of a teenager called Mary whose ghost haunted her house?

The world was in some ways so much brighter then. Every small thing mattered more. I don’t regret for a day that I’ve grown up, but sometimes I wish there was a more fluid link between the past and present. I’d like to drop in on seven-year-old, four-year-old, 10-year-old Ronni (or Veronica, as she was known then), to be her for a day or two.

It’s summed up, for me, in a poem I wrote a few years ago (the phrasing of it makes me wince, but the idea I’m trying to get across now is there):
When a catoniasta bush was as big as the whole world
And no, that is not a misprint:
I do not mean seemed, but was.
When the two of us sat among the whippy branches
Which arched over our heads, laden
With an infinitude of small red berries
– ‘They aren’t for eating’ –
our mothers said, worriedly
– ‘they’re poisonous’ –
‘But if the birds can eat them, why can’t we?’
We asked, with the logic of six-year-olds.
It made perfect sense.
While the branches and leaves transformed around us
Into a pirate ship
And no-one ever worried that we were so close
To the road, because
It was obvious we were too enthralled to move.

How infallible is your memory?
How infallible is a memory?
All I can say is, that although we could barely read
On that day
Never again will we see the world so clearly.