Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Remembering to breathe

Bumblebee and I decided to escape the seriousness of Best Beloved's law assignment and to take advantage of the extra day of holiday granted to all loyal Canberrans. We headed down to our favorite beach for the night (Sunday). It seems others had the same idea, but the camping ground wasn't as crowded as it will be next weekend. I think some people did a sensible thing and took the three days off between Canberra Day and Easter, because when we packed up yesterday afternoon, there were a number of tents that weren't going anywhere, thank you very much. Lucky, lucky bastards.

I have never been camping with my son by myself before. I've been with friends and with my partner, which is always fun, but this was a really special trip. Bumblebee is eight in 2 weeks, and it is a fantastic age to chill out with, especially if you like games involving world domination (which I don't, but I managed to pretend I did for the right amount of time).

Bumblebee is also a very imaginative boy, able (as an only child on my side) to amuse himself for hours, and also able (as the youngest of three older siblings on his dad's side) to keep adults engaged in his activities. We set up the tent -- very proud of myself for achieving that on my own, as our tent is the size of the Taj Mahal -- and headed to the beach, where we managed to stay happy until dark quite easily.

B spent the whole two days attempting to rearrange the coastline of southeast Australia. Digging holes, filling holes, throwing rocks into the water, piling rocks; he built a lot of things for the water to destroy. It was boy heaven. I took a good book (currently reading a biography of Spike Milligan), a few bits of the newspaper (including the Australian Cryptic from the Canberra Times) and a sketchbook (homemade, more about them later) and pencils. Mummy heaven.

rearranging the shoreline
rearranging the shoreline

On Sunday night, after a hearty meal around the gas stove, we rugged up and went to the beach armed with torches and read James and the Giant Peach on the sanddunes while the moon rose over the water. It's a fabulous place to read it, because it starts on a beach and spends most of the story over the ocean.

We spent all of yesterday on the beach repeating the above activities. We saw a couple of Hercules planes flying low along the coastline, which delighted B and gave me a chill as it evoked so well John Marsden's Tomorrow when the War Began, a feeling reinforced by a military helicopter following the same flight path about half an hour later. Well, once I went camping with no radio or newspapers, only to emerge from the bush to find that the Berlin Wall had been knocked down while we were in there. Anything can happen when you're camping, non?

After a last, gorgeous swim (really flat surf) we packed up really reluctantly and headed home. It was beautiful weather the whole two days, and as we drove out of Depot Beach and turned onto the highway, it started to rain, and rained all the way home. How perfect could an experience be? The worst part of driving home from the coast to Canberra is the sunset in your eyes. This wasn't much better, with wet slippery roads, but I prefer rain to sun in these drought days.

We were both exhausted last night, and slept like logs. I'm still pretty weary, but ever so happy. It was a great mother-son bonding experience, and I think B liked a chance to have me to himself for a while. He loves his stepdad, but 6 years of single parenting doesn't fade away quickly.

It's quite weird to look out of my office window and see only grey and rain today, but the tight red ache on my sunburnt face is a reminder that only 24 hours ago I was in the surf. And I can also remind myself that it's only a few more days until I can immerse myself in the weirdness that is the National Folk Festival, only minutes up the road from home.

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