Tag Archives: childhood

Grown up on the outside

When I was eleven I was a little bit dorky. Lots of reading, lots of innocent playground games, lots of school pride and very obedient to my teachers! Yet even as a dork I knew it was time to put childish ways behind me. So if you had told the eleven year old version of me that fourteen years later she would be sitting in a jazz club surrounded by people wearing newspaper hats, dancing along to Peter Combe’s live rendition of “Juicy Juicy Green Grass” and enjoying it, she probably would have been very embarrassed.

Fortunately it seems to be that the older we get the more we appreciate that some things about being child-like are still legitimately awesome. The music of our youth is no exception!

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What was your favourite childhood music?

My country, your country: Hard hitting thoughts

A few weeks ago, Matt and I went to Canberra to visit our friend Tim. It was early afternoon when we got in, and we were waiting around for Tim to finish work. To fill the time we visited some of the more obscure museums and monuments of Canberra. As the afternoon wound on, we found ourself outside the National Library. We went straight to their bookshop (it was excellent) and while I was there I read a book about making of the ABC TV adaptation of one of my favourite children’s books, My Place by Nadia Wheatley.

As I flipped through the pages showing each character’s story and the background to the filming, I was struck by photographs of the Aboriginal girl who tells her story in 2008. In the pictures, she was sitting under the big fig tree with her grandmother, listening to stories about the land, their history and their culture.

This, I thought, is a typical Aboriginal scene, of elders passing on stories and meaning to younger generations. But I had another thought, which was this:

I used to sit with my grandmother just like that.

My Grandma and Grandad used to live on a lovely rural property out at Ebeneezer, north-west of Sydney, and as kids we loved going out there to visit. We would go on long walks together, and sometimes just Grandma and I would go on our own. We would visit the big rock pile, or the dam, or the big waterhole. I remember distinctly sitting by the big water hole one day while Grandma taught me how to sign the alphabet (she is deaf, so it is actually a very useful communication tool!). It was such a key moment for me, learning how to be able to spell may way through clunky words so that we could actually converse. It was the moment I felt that I was valuable to my grandmother as a person in my own right, an interesting person to talk to, like the adults.

My grandparents don’t live there anymore, but as an extended family, we all hold this ramshackle piece of bush very dear in our hearts. All the special places there had meanings for us – the big water hole, the little water holes, the flat rocks, the good climbing trees. This place holds important memories, especially of my Grandad, who has passed away. I desperately wish I could go back there and see this place again that was such a key prt of my childhood, but someone else owns the property now. I just have to remember the places through photos.

Some of my earliest pictures on my very first camera:

My cousins Daniel and Drew at the small water holes (out of frame)
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My cousin Kate, myself, Georgia, Daniel and Drew. My brother took this one.
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Drew, Daniel and Georgia
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Back in Canberra, it was 5pm and the library was closing. We still haddn’t heard from Tim, so Matt and I wandered back slowly to the distant place where we had parked the car. We walked past the Reconciliation Place monument, a collection of inscriptions – names, quotes, legislation and art work – memorialising the experiences of the stolen generations.

The stories written up along the displays were horrific. Families torn apart, mothers paralysed with grief and removed children abused in every imaginable way. Although there were a few positive stories up there of understanding white people, or of eventual family reunification, most of the stories were sickening pictures of desparation. It was awful to sit and take it all in like that, knowing that this whole chapter of history was so avaoidable!

One quote made me stop in my tracks. It was a woman talking about how she had never really understood who she was because she had never been able to be with her own family in their own place. I wanted to be sick on the spot. Only fifteen minutes beforehand, I had been lost in my own memories of family, and the place that my family felt it belonged to. At what cost were these memories created!? Which Aborignal people were removed from Ebeneezer so that white people could farm? Which indigenous families were torn apart so that I could grow up safely with my own?

Under John Howard, people said that the stolen generation was not this generation’s fault. Maybe that is true. I personally can’t take any direct responsiblity for destoying countless Aborignal families.

But I was blind to the way that I personally have benefitted from the pain that many many others have suffered. That afternoon at Reconciliation Place, I realised. I am truly sorry.

People who I thank God for: #2 – Kate

Kate and I were in the same class every year throughout primary school. My first impressions of Kate don’t really exist, because we met the year before school started. I was 4 and she was 3 and it’s hard to remember everything that happens when you’re that young. Kate and I were very close friends during all of primary school, and although we were never best friends while we were at school (these kind of things had to be firmly established an articulated in primary school so technically her best friend was Liesl and mine was Eleanor!), Kate has made a pretty big impact on my life, mainly due to things that happened before we’d even turned 10.

As I mentioned in the last post, when I was in year 1 I accidentally went to protestant scripture. It was really fun there, so I stayed. We did colouring in and all my friends were there. We also learnt about God, which I thought was pretty neat. However it was Kate really got my childhood spiritual development snowballing. Right from back then in year 1, Kate was openly talking about Jesus and inviting me to things at her church. I joined her once a week at an after school kids club at the local church. Sometimes I went to holiday programs at her church in Ashfield. And one year – either year 2 or year 3 – she invited me along to a camp!

The thing that I have come to realise as I have grown as a Christian is that God gives everyone different gifts, and he uses different people with different gifts to grow the church and look after the world. And some people are really gifted at being evangelists. They talk about Jesus and are open about their faith with the people that they meet. They know how to answer questions and explain everything in a helpful way. The thing that amazes me is that back then, at 6 years old, Kate was effectively an evangelist. How on earth can a 6 year old girl be that convicted about what she believes? She faced ridicule from her friends and but she kept talking to us about God, not just for one year, but even as we kept growing. I guess it has to be a gift.

I’ve heard plenty of people – Christians, Atheists and Agnostics – saying things along the lines of how children can’t really understand or make informed decisions about religion. Personally, I can’t accept their arguments, because of Kate’s witness and my own experience as I grew up with her. Even though we were children, we knew what we were learning about and we grapsed at least some of the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice and the life he calls us to. And even as a child, Kate realised that it was something relevant for everyone, and that everyone needed to hear about it.

I thank God so much for Kate because she kept encouraging me towards Christ with whatever resources she had. By the time primary school was over and we parted ways to go to different schools, I was happy to call myself a Christian – even though I still knew I had plenty to work out.

Before I close up with Kate, I wanted to add in a little footnote. Kate and I are still friends and she is still a massive encouragement to me, and now Matt too. In fact, Kate has been a massive encouragement to a lot of people. Towards the end of high school, I went to a friend’s baptism. I’d met her through Kate, they’d gone to High School together. Before the baptism, she got up and gave her testimony. It was remarkably similar to mine in that Kate’s friendship, example of faith and invitation to church played a pretty vital role. When she finished two other girls have their testimonies and those guys too traced their turning to Jesus from the time that they met Kate in year 7! Praise God for all the ways he has used her!

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Me, Kate, Liesl and Lucy at one of Kate’s birthday parties