half the time we’d stay with my grandparents in a big house with a backyard full of fruit trees and vegetable patches. my nanny was always cooking something wonderful and my grandfather (ex weatherman and inventor) would spend his time in his garage, which was ideally another world full of many collected treasures. he had this mad love for all of it, like every odd collection and invention was a piece of himself. almost every night he would bring out old cameras from different eras, and show us how they’d worked. we spent a night going through a chest of photographs he’d taken of his seven children and the inspiration flowed so heavy through my blood.
one night we pitched a tent in the backyard while my family had a big barbecue. the girls crowded the tent as the light began to leave the sky and we all told hushed stories. later that night me and m lay beneath the bright stars and we shared the sweetness of life. my great uncle the nomad came to stay and we dreamt of buying a caravan and leaving just the same. one day we will.
the other half of the time i’d stay with my aunt megan and three cousins- sommer, belle and freya. it was much different to staying with my grandparents, it was chaotic and filled with sound in the most perfect way. it was a small house on the highway. over the fence in the backyard you can see grazing horses and m would hold little freya up so she could watch them, eyes lit with that innocent fascination babies have. i’d lay with sommer on the trampoline, watching the galaxy shimmer, and she’d point out everything she saw outlined in the stars. i’d tickle belle until she was breathlessly giggling and tell her crazy stories about the lives of the flies she often batted from her eyes. when she’d see me swoosh a fly from my leg or cheek, she’d say sternly ‘don’t you do that! you’ll hurt jemima the fly!’ in that adorable way toddlers mock seriousness. i fell in love with those girls and i miss them so often.
after sunset we’d sit with megan and we’d talk for hours and hours. there are moments i feel i don’t belong to my family, but in these moments i did. we’ve never been close. the only memory i really have of her was when i caught a bus at age thirteen to a town so small it was barely a town. i looked after sommer in a motel room during the day while megan worked on the boat with my uncle. i always thought she was quiet and would never have guessed one day there’d be a connection. some things are so terrible they are unimaginable to those who haven’t experienced them. because of her selflessness and strength in the most horrible darkness, i will forever feel inspired to be brave.
these are some of the photographs i took on this journey.
cousins layla, sommer and belle after rain.
belle through the car window.
sommer in a lone tree on a hill.
sommer soothing freya.
on the veranda of my grandparent’s home.
climbing trees in the backyard.
sommer wearing chocolate ice-cream.
sommer skipping in her new dress.
belle’s swimming class.
sommer’s reflection over the parking lot.
freya’s day naps.
belle being carried by m at the ER after she was bitten by a redback spider hiding in her dress.
sommer and layla on the trampoline.
the pile of clothes left by the girls after playing bareskinned under the rain.
sommer in the rain.
the golden afternoon light.
the front hallway of my grandparent’s home.
belle, sommer and layla watching television.