"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)
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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