It was with fond memories in mind that we camped out in the yard with the boys a few weekends ago. We pitched the tent early in the morning wishfully thinking the boys would use it as their cubby and play in their all day. They played in there for a short time, just long enough to collapse the tent and learn a good lesson –when somersaulting in a tent ensure to not hit the sides so hard you collapse the tent on yourself. Later in the day we gathered wood for the fire, ensured we had a good supply of marshmallows, rugged up and gathered all the blankets we had – it was a cold night.
That night as I watched the boys and their excited and fascinated little faces with red cheeks staring at the flames of the fire, daring to poke a stick in there and get it alight, burning their tongues on toasted marshmallows, and sending smoke signals I started thinking about all the times I used to camp out with my brother and our friends in the backyard.
I have the best memories of camping out when I was a kid in our backyard. Not in the bush or by the lake or sea but in a 750sqm yard, surrounded by the noises of the neighbours, distant music from the pub around the corner and barking dogs. When we were allowed to camp out on our own and as we got older and our confidence grew the further the tent got moved away from the house and the further our nighttime adventures would go. Dressed in black, commando style we would scale the fence, army crawl along the neighbours lawn to the next fence being sure to stick to the shadows, climb their fence into our neighbours vegetable garden and grab fresh supplies for camp.
Thinking now about this yard and the man that lived there I realize he was doing what people used to do in their yards and what my mum and dad’s generation weren’t doing when I was younger and what so many of us are trying to do now– trying to be self sufficient in some way, growing fruit and vegetables, raising chickens and composting. His yard was always producing and I remember you always knew when he had just fertilized as the smell of fresh compost would linger in the air for days. Writing this now I remember another neighbour on the other side also grew his own food and about 5 years before he died he told me about the local market gardens that used to be around the corner, where an oval now sits with its high maintenance lawn and occasional use.
Anyway, with a good supply of fresh potatoes and onions - perfect to cook on the camp fire, we would scamper back, ensuring to cover our tracks and cook up a feast of onion and potatoes. Whilst the billy was on the boil we would climb up on the garage roof, lay there and look at the stars smoking eucalyptus leaves.
So as I lay there in the tent with the boys and Dan attempting to warm up on a freezing night and thinking how it really wasn’t the best time of year to camp I stopped and listened and all I could hear was frogs, a distant owl and the sleepy breathing of my three favourite boys.