Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Memory lane

When my tank's a bit low and I feel like I should write, but have nothing interesting to say, it's always a good time to hit up Mama Kat's writing prompts. This week's options had one prompt that jumped out at me immediately.

"List your top 10 favourite things about summer growing up" 


(Sorry, Mama Kat. I had to spell favourite the way I've been conditioned to... it's nothing personal)


(Photo source)


1. Frangipanis

Walking along streets, trying my best not to step on or squash the fallen ones which covered the footpaths (impossible!). Gathering. Inhaling. Pinning in my hair. Frequently.

They are still one of my favourite flowers and I miss them. Surprisingly (because the LA climate is ideal), I just don't see them in the gardens around here. I need to make it my mission to find a little tree in a nursery somewhere, and regain a little frangipani magic.


2. Water play

What Australian childhood was complete without time spent frolicking under the sprinkler, with cool wet grass beneath feet? Growing up, our home didn't have a pool. Our neighbours did - and many hot days were spent at their place - but when they weren't home, our sprinkler came out. It makes me a little sad that because of water shortages (understandably), many kids these days don't know this simple joy.

Another favourite activity was wetting the trampoline then bouncing and sliding all over it. This was back in the days when trampolines weren't padded to within an inch of their life, and the springs were completely exposed. Usually, there were at least three kids piled on for this slippery fun, because this trampoline in question also belonged to our neighbours... along with a shed/cubby house, swing set, air-conditioned rumpus room, spare bicycles, roller skates, hula hoops, and a Commodore 64. We owned none of those things. I don't really need to mention that my parents saw little of me during school holidays, do I?


3. Icy confectionary

Streets Banana Paddle Pops. Tearing the wrapper open at one end, and blowing inside first to help the paper lift off. I remember when they were about 30c, and I'd convince my mother to buy me one as an extra treat instead of a 15c lemonade Wiz (although I loved those too). I shudder to think how much they cost today today.


4. Thunderstorms

My fear of loud thunder was something I got over at a pretty early age. In place, I grew to love the approaching rumbles of thunder in the distance, my excitement matching the frequency and intensity of the storm as it got closer... or disappointed if it never passed directly overhead. I loved the electricity in the air, and the sense of everything being right on edge. It was permission to enjoy a little (perceived) danger.

There seemed to be a lot more storms when I was a kid, but I think that's because of an uninterrupted childhood in Sydney - since then, my adult years have been spent in a number of other cities which sadly lack thunderstorms as a meteorological feature. Sydney... I can always count on Sydney to put on a good show at the end of a static, humid summer day.


5. Cheese & pickled onion sandwiches

Bliss. I am somewhat of a seasonal eater - there are foods that I tend to only crave or think of during certain seasons. My father passed on his love of these sandwiches to me when I was young, and to this day, nothing screams Summertime! to me more than cheese and pickled onion sandwiches. Even better, when accompanied by....


6. Schweppes beverages

Specifically, lemon cordial or lemonade. Cold, with tiny drops of condensation running down the glass. My dear grandmother always had a bottle of lemon cordial in her pantry, and the blue-labelled lemonade in her fridge. In those days, they were a treat for me, but she always let me have as much as I wanted. As an adult, those drinks have been staples in my own kitchen during summer... so you can guess how excited I was recently when I found cans of Schweppes lemonade in a nearby Indian grocer's. I bought one, and sipping at it was a lovely link to my Aussie summers.


7. Extended holiday visits

Each school break, I usually went and stayed with my grandmother for a few days. She was widowed and only lived twenty minutes away, but it always felt like a little holiday. Summer holidays were the best because sometimes I stayed a week or two, and was spoiled rotten. Instead of being lost amongst the chaos of four kids (I'm the eldest), I relished the attention from her, and she spoiled me rotten. Trips to her local shops always saw us running into her friends, and she would show me off proudly to them. I felt special when I was with her.


8. Endless reading

I was never a particularly active kid. Many a day, my mother would throw her hands in the air and ask why I didn't want to be playing outside - especially on such a lovely day? I was much happier curling up with a book. 


9. Cicadas

The deafening song of cicadas will always be the soundtrack to my childhood summers. Even better, they were probably the only insect that didn't send me running and screaming if I encountered one. In fact, I was able to pick them up without any drama. There are no other insects I can say that about.


10. Not feeling the heat

Was it just me? I don't recall ever feeling aware of being hot and uncomfortable - except at night on the absolute hottest days, when I couldn't sleep. Summer was my favourite time of year. The older I get now, the more I seem to feel the heat (and suffer) so have sadly begun to prefer spring. It feels somewhat traitorous to the ten-year-old me.

*  *  *

There are some great things on this list, and I would be so happy if my girls have similar memories or associations one day. At the very least, their internal archives for life in LA should also provide distinctive memories. It will be interesting to chat with them in twenty years' time about their own childhood summers.

(Click here for link)

18 comments:

  1. What a lovely list! I've never heard of Frangipanis before. I'm so glad you included a photo!

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  2. Wow, I love your list. So interesting hearing about summer fun in another country--though I know Cicadas. There a fun little insect to play with. And I looked forward to the thunderstorms that would put on such a big show for their arrival in Indiana, too. The leaves would blow wildly, like an applause for it's arrival. I live in Florida now and, frankly, thunderstorms here just don't arrive with any of thes same pomp and circumstance. They're rather boring.

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    1. That's interesting - I'd always imagined Florida would have great storms! Learn something new every day, right?

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  3. Love your list, too. I can share many favorites with you, only I grew up in Texas. Summer thunderstorms, icy popsicles, cicadas, playing in the sprinkler, reading books and putting together 1000 piece puzzles and I don't really remember the heat either. We played outside and camped and it wasn't until I was older that I started to get uncomfortable from the heat. That is the beauty of childhood.

    We lived in Hawaii for four years and I got to know and love those flowers, but we just called them plumerias. I would love to hear you say Frangipanis with your Australian accent. It probably sounds way better than me saying plumeria.

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    1. Well, that explains why Americans look at me blankly if I say frangipanis (I was trying to explain to a friend, whose daughter was wearing a headband with fake ones - they didn't know what they were called). I wull have to remember plumerias! How heavenly do they smell?

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  4. Never heard of those flowers before but they are beautiful! Not sure about that sandwich though! My weird sandwich from childhood was pineapple rings from a can and mayonnaise. Grosses most people out!

    Enjoyed your list! Hope you find those flowers. ;)

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    1. Can't say I've tried that combination, but seeing as I love pineapple rings on my burgers (it's an Australian thing) and Hawaiian pizza, I'm not completely grossed out ;)

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  5. I too am a lover of thunderstorms! We live in the states and used to live where we would get massive hail and the occational funnel cloud! I love the excitement. Me and my husband love taking photos, especially weather shots. We are now in the foothills where the storms are quite differnt, but yet still powerful! I am also going to have to try the sandwich! I love cheese and I love pickled onions, but never in a sandwich...question, do you put anything else on them??? I can't wait to add it into my summertime eatings!!!!! =) (Operation Mommiehood)

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    1. The sandwiches are fairly plain: just butter, cheddar cheese and sliced up pickled onion. Yum!

      Here in L.A, I stupidly get excited when I see forecasts for storms... then I remember that Los Angelenos consider black clouds and a brief dumping of heavy rain as a storm. Not quite the same, huh? I can actually count on one hand the number of times I've heard thunder in the last two years.

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  6. I loved this! It made me completely sentimental for things I've never even had. Now I'm dying for a pickled onion. Where do you even get such a thing? And I miss thunderstorms too, it fascinates me that we don't get them in LA. And cicadas! That was the soundtrack to my summers too - in Texas, on the other side of the world!

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    1. You know, the silly thing is, I haven't one of these sandwiches since before moving here... but now I'm really craving one! You may know pickled onions as cocktail onions? In Australia, you can get jars of larger-sized ones, so it's less fiddly chopping them up (and you only need a couple, as opposed to 5 or 6, to get a decent hit of tang). I've seen cocktail onions in my local Ralph's; may have to buy a jar very soon - fiddly chopping be damned!

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  7. It's just you. If the temperature in our area moved anywhere over 75 degrees I was pretty much miserable. :) Hot weather is not my f-a-v-o-r--i-t-e.

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    1. Sounds like Seattle is the perfect place for you, then ;) When I was there (a looooong time ago) I got just the one day of sunshine. Lovely city, though!

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  8. A lovely list. Lots of it recalls my childhood, too - except the sandwich. I'm not digging on the sandwich.

    I love your grandmother. I love 'hearing' you 'talk' about her and the way she made you feel. She was important.

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    1. Cheese and pickled onion? Not digging? You don't know what you're missing. Think 70s cocktail sticks on a sandwich. Mmmm....

      Yep. Loved my grandma - she really was special. She was the only grandparent I had, but she had the love and attention of four rolled into one for me.

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  9. LOVE this list MJ....and I'm thinking that sandwich would be a goer for sure. I LOVE cheese and pickled cucumber sandwiches so am thinking it's in the same family :o)

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    1. Glad I'm not the only one, then ;)

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