Golden memories

Easter always makes me think about family. When I was a kid it was always a focal point of family activities. Later, as an adult, there came a stretch of 12-15 years when the family as a whole would venture down the highway towards the Victorian alps to a vacation property we had in Yarck. This is what I remember mostly now.

Looking back from this distance it seems a bit of an enchanted period. All of us – probably up to 15 when factoring in kids – would gather together for a few days of family bonding. On Good Friday everyone would attend to the rituals by abstaining from eating any meat – salads and fish were the go (though as the family black sheep and atheist I would occasionally chew upon some flesh, as if to prove something).

We would play pool and go in the spa and go on occasional jaunts around the nearby area – the Mansfield fete was always a popular destination. We’d play the occasional board games, often to adult groans, and every easter there would be easter egg hunts – one for the kids, and another for the adults.

That reminds me of mum. She loved these times, and would immerse herself in it. She and Fred would be out early hiding easter eggs around the 2 acre property for the kids to hunt down. She was such an enthusiast that she could help but show delight with the happy activities, often giving hints – “warmer…colder…hot…”.

When it came to the adult easter egg hunt I was deadly serious, though in the style of my age I would affect a nonchalant disdain for something I was much to adult for. I liked chocolate, and that was strong motivation, but stronger still was the knowledge every year that my brother in law wanted to beat me. That roused my competitive spirit, and so I made it my business every year to collect more eggs than he did – which I did, every year.

For many of those years I stayed in the outdoor log cabin. There was no bathroom, but I had space of my own away from the noise and chaos inside. I would go to bed late and sleep well on a soft mattress beneath heavy covers. Later in the morning I would rouse myself to join the communal breakfast, which featured all manner of things – my brother in law would make pancakes every year, and of course there were hot cross buns.

Food was a feature of the occasion. I always think that Easter marks the change of season in Melbourne. The warm days of autumn turn into cooler days leading into winter (and this Easter is another proof of that). We ate very well, and often very heartily, and always with many bottles of good wine. Each of us leading into the weekend were allocated with a meal to prepare, so that the load was spread between us evenly. It also made for fun times.

I recall how much we looked forward to this weekend. Anticipation is so much of the pleasure. We would know it was coming, and in the weeks leading into it mum would let each of us know what we had to bring. For me it was generally wine and cheese and possibly some small goods. You would plan and prepare, and finally pack, before heading down on Thursday night – early if you could manage it, otherwise late – though some came down early on Friday.

They’re wistful memories now. They’re the kind of things you take for granted while you’re enjoying them, but when they’re past and gone you realise what you have lost. It’s very likely they would be continuing now but for the premature death of both Fred and mum. Instead they are gone, and the family fractured as a result, and Easter is quiet.

I’m still an atheist, but I won’t eat meat today. It’s not because of religious reasons, but because of mum. Mum was not a particularly religious person, but she was a believer and respected the conventions. I won’t eat meat today out of respect to her memory.

As it happens Wednesday was the fourth anniversary of her death. I remember every year, and realise how much has changed.

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