Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Was This Your Day Too?

Australia Day 2013

I wake to the sounds of the baby crying, a strange twisted warble that pulls me from my sleep. I head downstairs, already planning her breakfast of weetbix and yoghurt. I stop outside her door. There is silence.
I hear the noise again, but this time it is clearly coming from outside. I have mistaken the sounds of a warbling crow with my baby crying. My baby is very Australian.

 We start our morning with the quintessential Aussie activity: the early morning run to Ikea. We take two cars and separate the arguing kids. They want food from the food hall, we use it as a bribe for their silence and good behaviour as we trek the massive halls in search of bookcases. The bribe doesn’t work. They are brought home in disgrace.
The Awesome Grandparents and Young Aunty arrive and I escape for some ‘me time’, otherwise known as the Saturday morning grocery shop. The place is bustling and everyone seems to be buying up big for their Australia Day BBQs. I buy the last four lamingtons and a chocolate mud cake decorated with the Aussie flag made of icing.
We are probably the only place on earth who celebrate their nationalism by eating our flag, strapping it to our chests and bums, sitting on it, and putting flashing lights in it and dangling it from our extremities.
The kids celebrate by whinging and whining. Dad disappears upstairs to play video games. Mum has another cup of coffee and reads the paper.
The washing machine beeps and I stand in the heat hanging out washing. The wind is hot and the ground is hotter. I do the hopping dance because I am too lazy to run inside and grab a pair of thongs.
I start making a quiche for our picnic at the fireworks. It has pancetta and camembert . Very European. Doesn’t matter, the macarons I bought from the shop are green and gold with a mango filling. How Aussie. The wine is from New Zealand. But isn’t that the best thing about living in Australia? A melting pot of people and flavours from across the globe, a rainbow of colour and languages and experience.
It’s late afternoon. We walk down Kings Park Drive towards the picnic grounds. Everyone is dragging an esky or a picnic blanket or an umbrella. There are a few Aussie flags and green and gold, but mostly it’s just masses of everyday people in their everyday gear, heading out for a night together under the stars. There is no abuse, no yobs, no anger.
The kids run amok as much as they are able in the packed grounds. They hop from patch of grass to patch of grass in between the islands of picnic blankets. They sit on someone else’s eskie and share their glow sticks with the family behind us.
All around us, thousands of people, I can see that each of the continents are represented (probably not Antarctica though). There are people in veils and head scarves, people in thongs and shorts, people in summer dresses and people in not much at all. We are all here together, under the canopy of trees. We all watch as one as the planes do their flyovers, our voices a collective ooooh as they do their tricks.
As the sun begins to sink, and even more families try to cram onto the grass, space becomes a premium. A small group who have been sheltering under a large tent start taking it down. The crowd erupts in good-natured cheers and cat-calls as the view opens up.
Men walk through the crowd, carrying boxes of glowing swords and wands. The kids get their second wind as the glow wands are broken out and the radio starts counting down the minutes to the start of the fireworks.  
When the show starts everyone cranes their head to the sky. The radio is playing the same songs as last year, and the year before, but no one cares. Everyone is captivated. 300,000 West Aussies all with a collective crick in their neck.
When the show finishes, we all realise why they suggest we bring a torch. It’s bloody dark. The crowds pour back down the avenue, heading towards their cars, the buses, some are just walking. Traffic is snaking in long lines, choking the exits, clogging the routes out of the city. Just a typical day on Perth roads.
Later that night we crawl into bed, the last hint of BBQ in the air, mozzie repellent and sunscreen on our skins.
We truly are lucky.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post. Beautifully written (as always) and truly captures how being Australian feels.


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