Maybe I’m showing my age here but what I long for is the ‘good old days’ before smartphones, Kim Kardashian, FaceBook and cronuts changed our lives forever. Now, I realise there are countless nostalgic references to the 80s and 90s out on the interwebs, but that doesn’t stop me from adding my own. Noughties kids can stop reading now.
My pace of life and life in general have transformed so much in the last decade yet I find it hard to pinpoint when it all happened. Gradual creep into full-fledged adulthood? Or have social media, technology and global ‘connectedness’ pervaded the essence of everything in daily life that it is impossible to distinguish between your own choices and those made surreptitiously outside your head.
We celebrated a friend’s birthday this beautiful Sunday afternoon in Melbourne, under the umbrella of a giant oak, on picnic mats with a light breeze fanning away the heat. I reminisced to what I might’ve been doing a couple of decades ago on such an afternoon . . . . . . For context, I grew up in Kenya where life was a little bit different to what you might be used to . . . . .
- Climbing the loquat tree and tossing down ripe fruit for the smaller kids to have. No easy feat, the tree was rigged with barbed wire by some well-meaning but quite silly adults.
- Playing hide and seek and ‘chocolate box’ with all the kids in the block of flats where we lived – whether you liked each other or not.
- Lounging in our beds (my sister and I shared a room), with the windows flung open, listening to the weekly installment of a BBC whodunit on the radio. In the distance was the sound of other kids playing on the street and the hornbills calling to the rest of their family.
- Wearing our Sunday best – my sister and I had inverse clothes of each other. She had blue overalls with yellow pockets, I had yellow overalls with blue pockets. We thought we looked GREAT.
- Fishing home made savoury cumin biscuits out of steaming cups of mum’s masala chai and having a random natter. My brother was too young for chai so I’d make him some cocoa and trick him into thinking it was the real deal.
- Picking over a large steel dish of rice grains or smashing some garlic in a mortar with a pestle – how we helped mum with dinner.
- Head down, sketching a portrait of an interesting face, coming up for air by looking at the small field of white maize swaying in the breeze.
- If it was during school holidays and we were visiting with cousins in Nakuru, going for a walk together and closely examining every new plant as my auntie explained what each was. That’s how I learned about beautiful red bottle-brushes.
- Drifting to other lands in the ship of a wonderful book. I was a voracious reader and my authors of choice at the time, Mario Puzzo / Sidney Sheldon.
- (When we were little), walking, yes literally, walking on my dad’s back as a form of back pain therapy. This was the worst!
- Homework, because there was inevitably some math to be done. But we used HB pencils, and exercise books, and bits of eraser (we used to cut them into four to share).
- Going to the next door fruit and vegetable market with mum to make our selections for dinner. How I loathed it then but wish I could go back now.
- Running down to get the clothes off the line if there was a sudden flash of rain. No dryers people!
- Singing along to Ace of Base, Shaggy and Bryan Adams on Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40.
- Watching Gilmore Girls* with my sister and then speaking to each other very rapidly for the next few hours. We also wanted pop-tarts especially because you couldn’t find them in Kenya.
- Spending all our pocket money at Uchumi supermarket and becoming excited when the past-their-best-by Maryland choc chip cookies were on deep discount.
- My best friend and I leaning on the neighbours’ cars and taking turns looking at the stars with my cracked telescope. We could name all the constellations.
- Running with the wind in my hair because I was only allowed to wash my hair on Sundays and that meant I could wear it down. It was oiled and braided by mummy dearest for the rest of the week.
I could go on and on . . . .and I am sure wherever you are, a lot of these memories will seem familiar to you. Others might come across as a little unusual.
Life in Africa during the 90s was enchanted and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am very happy in Australia but you never lose the connection with the place you spent your formative years.
Essentially, I think I am very homesick and need to visit mum.
I know that if I went back right now, it would be nothing like it used to. And that’s what makes it all so bittersweet – knowing that every wonderful memory is a sliver of time that will never return.
What do you miss? Share your favourite memories below!
*yep, this is an anachronism but it is so appropriate no?