It’s 5:30pm, an overcast September evening in early Spring, and I’ve escaped the holiday house we are staying in with our three kids for a moment to take a short walk.
There’s music playing through my headphones, because, in my opinion, sunset and surf always look at their best accompanied by music, especially if its slow, and raw, and acoustic. And I’m also naturally lazy and I need the music to carry me forward until my feet find their rhythm.
It doesn’t take long for my body to willingly propel itself onward.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken a solo walk,and I’ve forgotten how good it feels.
I walk along the perimeter of the cliff road, my eyes searching the coastline, the dark rocks with their splash of white, the tops of gums dancing tremulously against a pastel pink sky, and I try to absorb it all somehow, all this twilight beauty. And, I take careful note of street signs too, because, like my dad, I get lost easily.
I see a sign for a local resort renowned for it’s restaurant, and I peer curious in as I pass, wondering what it would be like to be staying in there tonight, amidst the opulence and service, instead of going home to cook chicken burritos with my husband for my hungry family.
And I start thinking about my own mum and dad, and our early family holidays. And how my mum used to love picking where we ate dinner, and how the indecision was a form of pleasure and discernment, and how my dad always insisted we order as much as we wanted. I think about how mum still regrets not getting the extra piece of cheese cake for my brother that he loved on our last holiday, and the fact that the potato wedges he ordered on our way home didn’t come with sweet chilli and sour cream.
And then I don’t resent it at all, this heading home to eat with my noisy family, because family times like these, even when they may not always feel like it at the time, are gold. These are the things memories are made of.
And the air smells sweet of jasmine, and that smell, more than any other, reminds me of our childhood home. My brother and I throwing tennis balls against the thickly flowered wall, and pretending to drink nectar from their cups.
And I know my parents do it too. See memories overlaid at odd times, in odd places. Only, for them, the sensations must be even stronger, the smells, sights, sounds, resonating years of knowing, of loving, of serving, of laying down their lives for their children, and for the child they cherished and lost.
Just today I spoke quickly to my mum and dad while I wheeled J around the shops, phone in one hand leaning in to listen as my mum spoke bravely of her last few days, of how things were a little better, and a lot hard. And yet, her tone lifted when she asked how we were, how the kids were. Even amidst her own struggles with her health, she can always pull herself out of herself to care for us. For her loved ones.
And I think about how my parents are these quiet, often unseen warriors. These heroes who hold their heroism close to their chest, and walk gently in the shadows rather than the limelight.
And at times like these, I wish there was more that I could say, to honour them. To honour years of pain, and joy too, years of giving, even as they lost so much.
And so, I write this simple reflection.
And as my walk comes to an end, I look up, and there above me on a telegraph pole is a lone kookaburra, sitting as if taking in the sunset too. And next to him, a lamp, lighting the dark night.
And it makes me think, how even in all our family’s darkest times, there has always been light too. And the memory of that light carries me home.