Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lifting the curtain on childhood memories

It was a chance conversation. My friend S is taking her little girl, Miss Mouse, to the Canberra Folk Festival. Just the two of them. In the Kombi (you may remember S as the Lady Bountiful of rhubarb?).

Anyway, we’re sitting under the shady tree in the parental pick-up zone at the school (where we pick up the kids, not each other, I hasten to clarify), talking this and that. And she mentions the curtains.

She has spent the day making curtains for the Kombi. So she and Miss Mouse can perform their daily ablutions at the festival without, as Miss Mouse puts it, “showing our bottoms to everyone”. Quite. One eye on Mr3, who’s building dams in the dustbowl under the tree, I asked, offhand, ‘what colour?’.

Even before she answered, I knew they were going to be orange. It’s an unwritten rule that car curtains are orange. I know this because, back in the day, my family had a Holden Kingswood station wagon, beige, with orange curtains.

As soon as she said it, I was in the back of that Kingswood, on the bench seat, with sisters B and C, playing corners, sweaty skin sticking to the vinyl, on the endless, endless driving odyssey we used to call Family Holidays. Later, our brother TICH (The Inner City Hipster) would be peering at us over the front seat, from his princely throne in the antiquated car seat between our parents.

Dad would do the driving. Mum would attempt to keep us entertained with games of eye spy, car spotting and God only knows what else. We’d sing through our entire repertoire of songs – Country Roads and Try a Little Kindness on high rotation – at least ten times. We’d listen to Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash, Billy Joel. Ripper 76.

It’s a long, long way from the south coast of NSW to North Queensland. A long, hot way in summer. No DVDs. No air-conditioning. The windows always down, sister B claiming a window seat every single time due to car sickness. And orange curtains in the back windows.

Hell. And Heaven. All at once.

We had that car for many years. We’d had it when I was very little and my orange hair and orange outfits matched the orange dirt of the Northern Territory (where we lived) and the orange curtains. We had it until I was almost a teenager who could quote Anne of Green Gables ad nauseum about the horrors of red hair.

The soul of that car never died.

Unfortunately, the body rusted away around it. It was replaced by a bright yellow (to match the kitchen I think) Mitsubishi Express eight-seater palace. Room for all. But no room for the orange curtains.

It’s funny how our memories work. Mine is terrible. Half the time I think I was born 21 because I remember little of my life before that. My family’s always saying ‘remember when?’ and I look blankly at them and ask if they’re sure I was there. But take a small detail, like an orange curtain, and there they are, peeking out from behind it. Every family holiday we shared.

I wonder how the Camry would look with a new window treatment?

Enjoy your Easter break (orange curtains or no) and I’ll see you back in the Fibro next week!



  1. What a beautiful little trip down memory lane. It took me back to the days when we'd ride in the back of Grandad's Kingswood.

    Have a lovely Easter. From memory Easter is the busiest weekend on the South Coast.

    Have a great one. xx

  2. The only memory I have of our station wagon is melting my crayons in the ashtray. I forgot they were there, and well, like you said ... summer's hot. We definitely could have used some orange curtains in ours.

  3. Your sample survey of one car proves to be most effective, because the curtains in our van are, yep, you guessed it, orange!
    This trip down memory lane reminds me of a lovely, lovely piece in the Good Weekend recently by Philip Clark, track it down if you ever get the chance...

  4. How lucky you were to have had curtains! We had an old yellow Kombi van when we were growing up but sadly, no curtains...I dearly wanted curtains.

  5. The soundtrack to our 70's family month long driving holiday in Qld was "Jesus Christ Superstar". The CASETTE lasted all the way up and half way back before the tape stretched too far to the parentals bought another copy to complete the trip!
    All this reminiscing....OPEN THE SUITCASE!

  6. I love the way you write.

    Although I've never had a Kombi with orange curtains, this took me back to my own family car journeys, caravan attached.

    Beautifully evoked.

  7. Orange makes me think of the orange Volvo station wagon Mum drove for a while (during which time I made her drop me off around the corner from school!) and the orangey-browny couch we had for my whole childhood. A very big colour in the 80s!

  8. I've just found your lovely blog to add to my blog roll :) Looking forward to reading more.
    My Uncle drove an orange Holden Kingswood! My father was (and still is) a classic car enthusiast I always wished we were like other families and longed to own a 'normal' car.
    Thanks for the memories.

  9. Takes me back to my dads yellow kingswood. I have fond memories of going on trips to Sydney with Dad and Ben. Not a seat belt in sight. Ben and I would fight over who would sit where. A fact that amazes me now as we had choice of the front seat,whole back row and the boot. Yes the boot was great for some time out travelling.

  10. Very well put. I think my favorite line from this post was, "Hell. And Heaven. All at once." Completely epitomizes all of my childhood car riding experiences.

    Except we never had orange curtains. Somehow, I think I might have missed out on something. ;)

  11. I really love LinkWithin. Because that's how I found this treasure.

    I too have a terrible memory from birth to 13, but then everything is pronounced after that. Perhaps because our lives were so fabulous we can't remember any tragedies?

    Well, that's a good thing. Isn't it?

    Love this post, and it reminds me of some LPs I must go and find... xx

  12. And this post is just as wonderful as the last time I read it. I know I've said it before, but your writing certainly paints a picture. xx

  13. Please tell me your brother is Brother D? A, B, C ... D?
    Love this post. My family holiday memories are similar, only they are in a beige (of course) Landcruiser.

  14. Oh I love this post. I bet you don't have orange curtains (oops that sounded a bit naughty!!). Now I'm blushing, best I go now before I say anything else.

    Have a lovely weekend x


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