It’s Easter school holidays and Steve has a week off, so we’re making the most of our time together and escaping our home and heading off down the coast: along the Great Ocean Road to a place called Fairhaven. We leave Monday and will return Friday – 4 nights, 5 days of family fun. But first we must pack and just looking at the “stuff” we need to pack for the six of us is enough to put me in a bad mood.
Considering we happily backpacked around Vietnam for 5 weeks with just a backpack each, seeing the “stuff” spread out on the living room floor gets me ordering directions at the girls “take one bag only”, “that doesn’t need to come”, “we do not need to take your whole bedroom!”. After we arrive, I notice as the unpacking occurs two hair straighteners make their way into the packing!
Steve and I work quickly when we arrive – I drag all our “stuff” upstairs and he sets up the Jayco camper in the driveway with the help of the kids. We bring the Jayco along as extra sleeping quarters for the kids. The kids are great at assisting too and before we know it we’re at the edge of Victoria; walking down the beach steps onto the magnificent stretch of pristine coastline. Ahhhh…the sighs come forth as we breathe in the crisp salty air, listen to the roar of tumbling waves and look out towards the horizon where the separation of sky and sea disappears.
Fairhaven has become a home-away-from-home. My grandfather purchased a beach house for the whole family to use and enjoy in the early 90s so my family has been coming down here on school holidays since I was a young one. It’s a place that holds many childhood memories: attempting to surf but nose-diving straight onto the bottom of the rough sand, boogy board races with my brother, lathering of sunscreen and my first kiss with a boy called Toby in the rugged sand dunes. Now I bring my own young family here with all of our “stuff”.
Mini-breaks work for us. It allows all of us to catch up with one another and reconnect outside of the habitual routine that has us at home. Life is hectic juggling work, our jumping castle business, netball and running club commitments, homework, readers, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes…aghhhh…STOP! An opportunity to change life up a bit was too tempting to refuse. We invited other family members to join us for a night or two – Steve’s sister came down with her two boys, Steve parents and even my parents joined in. We had a full beach house for a night and we went to Lorne and enjoyed 1kg of mussels for $10 at happy hour at the Pavillion, walked along the Lorne pier on the most beautifully calm night watching the sun slide down the other side of the mountains. Then we drove to the Aireys Inlet pub for dinner. Ahhhh being able to enjoy family time together in a little beach house made it so much fun. Sure it was cramped and busy but that’s what makes it so memorable. In the morning Steve got busy in the kitchen poaching eggs, browning toast and tossing spinach leaves in virgin olive oil. Our home grown barista, Ashley churned out coffees and hot chocolates from the trusty red ALDI coffee machine. All this for 13 people on a small electric cook-top while we watched the drizzle outside set in and the cousins play another game of UNO.
Another reason for getting away was for me to ignite the creativity: do some reading, do some some writing. But no. With everything going on it was difficult to pinpoint the creative flow. It was more like creative flop. But a phone call I received on the second last day sent me to outer space. It was an impromptu call from my former boss who I hadn’t heard from for nearly 15 years. Of course it was a pleasant surprise and great to hear from him. But in the conversation he just dropped this boulder onto my pinky that made me really squirm: “you could have been one of the best industrial marketers out there, but you went off and f*@#%^ it all up!” Silence. What to say? I reflected what could have been, like the movie Sliding Doors with Gweneth Paltrow or Neo in the Matrix taking the red pill or the blue pill? The fact is, I quit climbing the corporate ladder after I married and had babies. Four of them in five years. Do I hang up on this a-hole? No. I came back to the phone conversation with my open mind and listened to how my former boss’s life too had taken diversions since we last worked together: an ugly divorce and his son, now at high school, not talking to him because he left his mother and the marriage. It was the last thing I went to bed thinking about, and it was the first thing that I thought about when my eyes opened in the morning-did I make the right choice?
And so on the final day, notoriously called the clean-up day, I descended into a state of hopelessness about being a “pretend” writer. Don’t worry folks, this is not a new phenomenon of mine and I can’t blame the former boss’s comments either. All too often I experience creativity slip away from the page and I’m left a heartbroken mess. Add to that my former boss’s quote of the year and I was lost in dirty dishwater. So Steve made a deal with me – he and the kids would clean and pack up while I wrote. I only wrote a paragraph when Mrs Guilt came on over and settled herself on my lap. Great, what next?
I thought back to backpacking throughout Vietnam, writing, uploading and posting on my iPad as we moved from place to place on buses, at train stations, sitting at the beach, lying in hotel rooms, or cramming a story in time before heading out to find dinner. I did all that. So why can’t I write here? Am I not inspired? With all of our “stuff” to pack away and the guilt, I started to automatically fold beach towels with tears ready. And I realised, after being gently yet sternly told to sit down for a chat in the Jayco by my amazing husband, that I was a real writer and that I just needed to start with something small, something real and something honest.
The Jayco is packed. The beach house is clean. The road is clear for me to write. Steve has joined the girls for a final walk along the beach while I sit here, peacefully and happily writing about our amazing mini-break and in the background I’m dreaming of coffee gazing out the window at the Aireys Inlet lighthouse. This is my life; it’s full, it’s big, it’s adventuresome and all too often I can’t see the beautiful little experiences that happen right underneath my nose to write about and share.
So thank you to my former boss, Mrs Guilt, creative flop and “stuff”. Right here right now, I’m writing and that’s all that counts as I hear sweet little voices scrambling above the loud noise of a passing truck trying to change gears up the hill and footsteps climbing up the stairs. The girls enter the room and ask me, “How did you go Mum? Did you get much down?” And I show them the words on the screen and all they say is, “Mum that’s great! You wrote heaps!” And that’s all I needed to do and hear to take me back home.