These days, I am old and grey. I know of grandparents my own age, and younger folk, who seem to have to spend a fortune on entertainment for children. They set off for expensive theme parks, to eat pricey takeaway foods and buy lavish custom-made couture for their young ones. Good luck to the kids.
I ponder on all the fun we had for free when we were kids. We lived in the typical weatherboard home, surrounded by a large garden and vegetable patch. In hot weather, our parents would pile us into the back seat of a hot car, windows wound down, with a couple of neighbourhood kids. We drove to a nearby river where my late mum would give us all a swimming lesson. Then afterwards she would sit on a travel blanket with a thermos of tea and a novel. Dad would promptly lie down and fall asleep. Mother would say: “Go and swim!” My late father, the family clown, would say: “Don’t come back if you drown!” We didn’t. Drown, that is. “Come back at four o’clock!” We did, no watches, no smartphones. We just did, okay.
That was it. We enjoyed every afternoon by the river in the sparkling sunshine, in the middle of the great Australian bush. Did you have free fun?
In the summer time, our family would spend other days picking blackberries on the sides of unmade bush roads. These days, the wild berries are sprayed by hazardous pesticides. Way back then, we ate large, ripe, juicy blackberries, collecting buckets more. My mum would cook them into blackberry pies, with home-made pastry, served with ice cream and lashings of whipped cream. Free fun.
On other occasions, we would traipse off to a nearby creek, now drowned in a dam. We would go bushwalking, or collect rocks for the garden borders. More free fun was splitting apart the rocks, to discover plant fossils. Then, at 4pm, we would gather round the old family Holden car, and eat a piece of Boston bun or a lamington, with a drink of juice. All slightly warmed by sitting in the hot car. Simple, but free.
We also loved visiting all our grandparents for free fun. When our beloved Nanna passed away, Mum went on a spree of taking us to tour cemeteries on Saturday afternoons. Some were very old, so we learned about snapshots of family histories on gravestones.
However, the most fun I can recall, quite simply, was our jaunts to assorted council rubbish tips. Yes, we used to sort through the hard rubbish to find ‘treasures’, with not a rubber glove in sight. Indeed, in the small-town like suburb I grew up in, the tip rated as a social focus for my older teenage sister and her potential beaus. Quite the dating scene, the rubbish tip. Even the family dog enjoyed her trip to the tip, we all escaped the backyard. I guess it was just our way of growing up in suburbia. Simple, free fun.