Last weekend, we went to visit my dear grandma in a little country town, about 5 hours west of Sydney. She moved off the family farm about 10 years ago and now has a cosy little town house that my kids were instantly at home in. The town she lives in is the town I grew up in.
A population of about 400 people, with many of them exist off the land. It is mainly sheep and crop country with some cows and pigs thrown in the mix. It is flat for as far as you can see and the sunsets are perfect. It is hot and dry in summer and meant to be cold and wet in winter, but the rain is largely unpredictable with droughts frequenting the town and surrounding farms.
My farm was about 10 minutes from Ariah Park. I went to school in the town for a couple of years before moving to a school in a bigger town about 30 minutes away and eventually to boarding school. Between 7 and 14, I caught the bus every morning either to or from here, watched the AFL every Saturday, played netball for the town and even worked in the post office and fish and chip shop as I got older in the boarding school holidays. I knew the locals – my parents and grandparents were some of them.
We had a lovely night with my grandma. My children adore their great grandma and were playing with all the games I used to play with at her house – Uno cards, golliwog dolls, books, Old Maid. She cooked a delicious casserole – the taste of Sunday dinners we used to have there every weekend as kids. I lay on her couch and talked – just like I did when I was 9 years old. The intersection of memories and what I had become were playing hard on my mind.
Nothing like a grandma to remind you what you were like when you were little. She commented on the resemblance between my children and me at that age and reminded me that I always knew how to calm kids. I was the town babysitter and would often be nursing or feeding the babies at the local BBQs or pushing the stroller around.
As we drove away along the road from Ariah Park to Wagga, I had a huge flash back to the many times we had driven that road when I was between the ages of 7 and 14. Some 25 years later, I still remember every bump, turn, farm, silo and tree. Nothing too much has changed in that time, except my perception.
I sat there thinking about the person I was then and who I have become.
The years between the ages of 7 and 14 were formative years for me and years I try to recreate for my own children. The sense of freedom and independence I had on the farm, the huge amounts of time I spent outside on the back of ute or playing with the farm animals, friends or family, the smells of home cooked meals that come from the kitchen and the sense of community in a small farming area.
Developmentally, between 9 and 12 years children transition from early childhood to teenagers, known as ‘tween years. It is a period of rapid change with the onset of puberty, developing a sense of conscience – what is right and wrong, moving from play-based activity to academics, understanding consequences for actions and increasing independence in movement and choice. Now the mother of a 9-year-old, I became acutely aware while on this road of the intensity of those forming years and the making of who I have become today.