Pulling up at Nanna’s and Grandpa’s house in the small country town of Cowell South Australia, would bring butterflies to my stomach and tears of love to my eyes every time. Dad would honk the horn of his brown 1975 Kingswood as we drove up the dirt driveway and pull in front of the monstrous boat sheds, barely large enough to fit the whole family when we had one of our Christmas shindigs. My sisters and I would stretch and wriggle in our seats from excitement as we parked next to the cars of Aunties and Uncles, the competition to guess who had already arrived never dull
The sound of a car pulling up would bring Nanna from the kitchen, Grandpa from the fruit trees and countless relatives out to greet us. We’d jump out of the car with hair stuck to our faces, sleep in our eyes, yet big smiles from ear to ear to be in the one place that brought us true childhood joy. Hugs and kisses exchanged, we’d head inside for a cuppa. Biscuits, cakes, and slices emerging from old tins and Tupperware. The delicious smell, chatter and long bench seat of the kitchen table so familiar, so treasured. This was where we all belonged. This was where we were loved. This is where we played childhood games, spent our long weekends and Easters, and grew from children into adults. We were home.
Nanna and Grandpa left that beautiful home in Cowell more than two decades ago. But the memories I, my sisters and all my cousins have of the family events we celebrated are still strong and infinitely missed, the golden years of our lives. The seventies, eighties and early nineties were when our large family came of age. As did the evolving world.
From the simplicity of a meandering, self-reliant, offline life to the fast pace of city living, fast consumption and a digital adulthood.
Our lives changed from ones focused on the grace of family, creativity and learning home skills from our elders, to being altered forever as we left parental homes and moved to the noise of busy-ness, work expectations and pursuing the almighty trophies of success. The innocence of our childhood was not lost with age but was torn from our tender grasp by the progress of modern western society.
Yet that place, that humble family home, those days of playing dress ups, raiding ‘the girls’ full vintage closets and watching Nanna, Mum and my Aunties make countless handmade items still remain strong in my memory. And the nights of card games, singing and dancing, and everyone pitching in to help, made me who I am today. The values of family silly fun, self-expression, unconditional acceptance and using your hands to make, repair, reuse, create and thrift, are the values that now fill my heart and mind.
It’s not possible to go back to the days of childhood innocence and close family proximity, but it is possible to experience that joy, a love for life, have silly fun, dress up, make beautiful things and enable our children to enjoy some of what we once had.
The vintage values which seem completely lost in today's consumer society, are the ones we most need to hang onto to instill a sense of belonging, kinship and sustainability. And fortunately, there is a huge movement toward this way of life again.
In hindsight, as a civilization perhaps we needed to completely lose sight of all the things we most treasured as we let convenience take precedent over the slow pace, just so we could realise how wonderful we already had it. Now the continual striving for growth and progress in the economy is going all wrong. Maybe it was in fact striving for growth and progress in community that we needed.