A Place To Return To

There are ten waterfront cabins, a villa, and a wooden bridge that has had varying levels of ricketiness through the autumns we’ve walked across it.

Entire generations of my family have walked across this bridge.

Our happiest family photographs are set here: leaning against lush tree branches or half buried in the sand. My brother learnt to ride a bike on the banks of the creek: my sister and I snorted lines of Wizz Fizz.

We would feel the coolest we’ve ever felt, when in the company of our older cousins, around a bonfire we’d spent all afternoon collecting driftwood for. We’d have marshmallows, and Melody Pops, and my dad would wander up midway through the night to see what we were up to.

We’d fight, too, and get sunburned, and eaten alive by mosquitoes, and when both happened at the same time it was an exquisite kind of pain. I’m pretty sure we lived on Hot Cross Buns. Once a trip, we’d walk the 3.5 kms that stretch from our caravan park to the one at the other end of the beach and return, hours later. We had The Tree, which we would peel bark from and plaster with hermit crab shells. We’d borrow an inner tube from the caravan park owners who’d diligently patch up any punctures. We’d take it into the surf with my dad and one person always had to be careful not to scratch their legs on the air valve.

Five bodies, two parents and their three children, grew up in the waterfront cabins, sometimes in tents and once or twice in the old timey annexed caravans. My parents honeymooned here. So did my sister and her husband. They’ve started bringing their children here every year.

And here I am, too. On my own, trying to recapture… something. To identify some of the missing magic.

Every year, when we said goodbye to the safe beach, the possums we spotlighted at nights, the park dog Zoe who we threw a stick for, and the public amenities where we switched off the lights when all the middle aged ladies were showering, we knew for certain we’d be back. Same time, same place, another year older to anchor and recalibrate. To help figure out who we were, and take stock of how we’d changed. To be everything we are.

When you have something good that you can count on, unquestionably, there’s pretty much nothing better. It makes the pain of losing it this time a little easier to bear because it comes with the gain of reaching it next time.

Next year we’re celebrating 50 years of our family being connected to this caravan park. There’s a big reunion taking place. It’s no longer a family friendly caravan park that lends bicycles out to the children of families: it no longer sells three lollies for ten cents, with a utopic choice that includes red clouds, pineapples, orange ears, and spearmint leaves. Instead it’s a surf school that attracts busloads of backpackers by day, and a cheap means of accomodation for fruit pickers from other countries.

But we’ll be here. And I think we’re all excited to recapture the magic. And for the certainty of being together, at this special place, and remembering that who we are is each other, too.

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