starry nights and toasted marshmallows

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

"And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone."
W.B. Yeats

Easter is one of those holiday periods that triggers fond memories of my own childhood and I love seeing the sparkle in my children's eyes as their own Easter experiences are lived, their own memories made. With two young kids aged two and almost six, it's exciting to have the opportunity to create our own family traditions and foster the next generation of Easter escapades. Family, friends, simplicity and adventures - at home or away - all feature as key emerging themes.

This year all of the above themes were central to the four day weekend, which included our first family Easter getaway - a somewhat impromptu trip to a friend's shack on the river Murray, an hour from Adelaide. A late decision to stay for a few nights rather than doing a day-trip made for a stressful but anticipatory city exit as we scrambled to pack, off-load the dog and join in the anarchy otherwise known as pre-public holiday food shopping.

We set off driving through the hills and along the freeway, rationing out lollies and playing eye-spy, then travelling the dirt back roads past farming land where we spotting sheep, cows, horses and a roadside kangaroo. And then from the rise of a small hill we finally spied the Murray and the sleepy settlement of shacks where we would be staying.

Our friend's had arranged for us to stay in the caravan adjacent to the shack and we excitedly claimed sleeping areas, throwing pillows and layers of blankets on the beds. We opened the canvas windows to glimpse views of the river over the roof of the shack. Out came the trackies, beanies and ugg-boots: oh yeah, inner bogan be free! We settled in to cheese platters by the river, followed by a communal seafood dinner, and some celebratory holiday drinks. The kids adjusted to being permanently in life jackets and eagerly waved at the variety of boats sporadically passing by.

photo: Louise Millar

As darkness descended and bedtime neared for the over-tired toddler, I took him away from everyone to sit beside the fire overlooking the river. We sat snuggled cheek-to-cheek, gazing up at the enormous, clear night sky and the mass of visible stars. City nights have nothing on country skies, and he was mesmerised, pointing out the brightest stars. Together we witnessed a shooting star blaze and fade out across the sky, and life felt utterly complete in that simple moment. 

The little guy bid the stars goodnight and willingly crashed out in his portacot. Our group moved to the fire, where collectively we shared basic knowledge of the star constellations and toasted copious marshmallows. As we watched my daughter squish multiple marshmallows on to her stick, the girls and I reminisced on the best parts of camping and trips away as a kid - seriously how good were [are!] fires and marshmallows, being under the night sky, hanging out in your daggiest clothes and getting grubby. And here we now sat, watching my kids enjoy similar activities on their weekend away. I felt so grateful for the opportunity for them to experience those activities, so fulfilled watching my daughter's face of concentration as she mastered her marshmallow toasting technique. 

The next day was all about an excess of hot-cross buns and chocolate, and being on the river. Our daughter went with the boys to collect the boat and then it was time for the girls to hit the water. The kids piled into the boat to watch - and I have to admit, it's pretty classic having your own mini-me fan club! Later that afternoon we spent another few hours on the boat as the boys all had their turns on the wakeboard and wakeskate. Big sprays, airs and even bigger stacks made for good times [and satisfyingly sore bodies].

photo: Louise Millar

We spent hours with our friends and the kids on the boat that day, watching each other ride and stack; spotting pelicans, swans, and circling birds of prey; travelling past agricultural land, sparsely vegetated cliffs, areas of native vegetation and sections of river bank invaded by weedy willows. The kids were captivated with the sporting endeavors, the change of scenery and fresh air, and our daughter had a ball in her role as spotter [perhaps not the most timely spotter but hey, no-one got left behind - for long]. 

The trip did require keeping a close eye on the toddler given we were so close to water, the shack was on a steep cliff, and we had the fire going both nights  - and yet we were able to enjoy an ultra relaxing few days. Whilst we had to be vigilant, the little ones were totally absorbed in enjoying the riverside, boat rides and night sky; identifying the passing bird life; spotting cows across the river; kicking the footy and finally hunting for Easter eggs all rugged up on a misty Easter Sunday morning.

Our Easter presented a relaxing reminder of the magic of childhoods past and present, the importance of family and friends, and the revitalization that comes with time away toasting marshmallows under a country night sky. That Yeats bloke was totally on the money.
I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Easter!

Until next time,

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