Back in the day, you just couldn't beat the old Super 8 home movies. Dad was a great fan, taking the small, wind-up movie camera everywhere - including the deck of our home in Seattle, (Washington USA) to film the sunset...
... so some home movies were more interesting than others.
The movie camera went with us to Disneyland in 1962, thus proving I was there. The grainy footage showed me about to lose my lunch whilst being flung about in the Flying Teacups, and rumbling down the Matterhorn.
Another movie shows me swimming with my sister in Puget Sound at Seahurst, an admirable feat considering how cold the water is there, year round. But when you're 6 or 7 years of age, cold doesn't matter. The photo above is of Seahurst Park - gives you an idea of the terrain.
I don't remember all of the details of the death-defying swim, but it's a sunny summer's day, and we're at a beach near our home. I say 'beach', but the shore is rocky. Where we're swimming, the water is a deep, brilliant blue and there are rocks with big, thick, brown strap-like kelp, the type that slithers along the skin, threatening to tangle and pull you under, a possibility of which we are blissfully unaware.
I have on an orange brown swimsuit with some kind of skirt apparatus, no doubt fashionable at the time. My sister and I are playing with a large, round-shaped log, black and slimy with that almost iridescent green seaweedy stuff that covers the rocks too. I think we're trying to get on board but can't. It's too slippery.
When I look at the movie, I think, yes, I can remember the feel of that log - smooth, slippery but with some splintery bits. And I recall the texture of that green seaweedy stuff, soft, almost fur-like.
The most powerful thing I remember is the smell - deep and rich, confronting, the scent of heavy brown kelp, the water (probably ten feet deep just beyond where we're playing) and salty sea so intense I don't think I've ever experienced the like of it anywhere else I've been in life.
Swimming in the freezing waters of Puget Sound didn't scare me but those Flying Teacups at Disneyland did. The movie proves it. Suffice to say, I've expunged the memory of the teacups.
But the Puget Sound swims, yes I can remember those. As a young child, my senses were on high alert, all the time, exploring, experiencing, discovering, learning.
Sometimes the things we remember most strongly are those where our senses are profoundly involved and connected.
On the subject of home
The subject of 'home', and all that means, is a great writing prompt and one that I often use in my life writing workshops.
Home is not only a physical location, but it's a house, parents, family, friends, growing up, life experiences (good and bad) ... there's so much there.
This week I helped a good friend move from the house she'd lived in for over 40 years. It was a special day because I'd helped her move in, all those years ago - almost to the day.
After the house was empty of furniture and possessions, I walked through each room and hallway, saying good bye to the places I'd come to know so well, because I'd been a frequent visitor over all of those years.
I fare-welled 'the window' , one of those old sash-types you see in villas. On the day we moved her in, we weren't able to shut it, and there was a crisis as we were loathe to leave it half open in what was then a dubious neighbourhood, but one that is now full of very expensive homes.
I walked out into the private courtyard, sunny, warm, and full of colourful flowers, where my friend and I had sat innumerable times over lunch and bottles of wine, talking about our writing, encouraging each other with our respective projects.
Our homes are rich repositories of material for stories. There are so many I could write. The home I grew up in Seattle USA where my sister and I would play 'fish' down the laundry chute; our first house after moving to New Zealand, in Murray's Bay on Auckland's North Shore, little more than a fibrolite bach at first, where everyone in the family came down with a vicious 'flu apart from me and I was looked after by our new neighbours who had two cats I adored, Snookie and Tiger; the second house our family had in Torbay where it was rumoured the original owner, 100 years ago, had chased his wife about with an axe; the first home I ever owned, a small unit in an Onehunga complex where the bikie gang next door used our wooden fences for firewood.
My friend has moved to a lovely new unit in a retirement village not far from her old stomping ground. It's warm, with a sea view, and she's treated herself to lots of new and lovely furnishings. I'll look forward to visiting there, having lunch and a glass of wine, enjoyed on the wide and wonderful balcony.
A car called Chickadee
The first car I owned was a Datsun 510 called Chickadee, very much like the one in the photo here.
I was 22 or so, had not long been in the USA and didn't know much about cars over there so was fortunate to have a friend who sourced Chickadee for me as a good, reliable, first vehicle.
And it was by golly. We weathered some Seattle winters together, a grunty pair of snow tyres on the rear, ploughing our way up and down the hills and out south to where I was living.
Then came our great journey. Chickadee and I drove from Seattle, Washington to Fernandina Beach, Florida, with a blue Cookie Monster stuffed toy in the passenger seat and a 'CB' radio for company. The car was loaded with my possessions, packed in with such precision I almost had to dismantle the car to get everything out when I arrived at my destination, some three weeks later.
It was a massive trip and I wrote an article about it for the NZ Herald called 'There's no way like the freeway to Florida'.
I met many people along the way, and experienced some pretty full on adventures, some of which I look back on now and think the young are certainly protected by guardian angels and their innocence of the ways of the world.
Some of the most interesting parts were associated with vehicle damage or failures.
One night I stayed at the Grand Canyon. It was cold and I can still remember the clear, moonlit night, the depth of the canyon ghostly and silver-shadowed. The next morning, the car wouldn't start. I was wrestling with the problem when a man wandered up, said he'd had the same issue with his car. 'It's the high altitude and the dry air,' he said. 'Your carb isn't getting the right mix of air and gas.' OK. So he took over, did something under the hood, car started right away, no further problems.
I hit a huge hole in the road coming into Albuquerque, New Mexico, and broke the muffler. Pulling into the first repair shop I came to, the mechanic fixed it back to the car with a coat hanger and we had a great visit.
En route through Texas to visit my Uncle in Dallas, the water pump went out. I was towed into the nearby town of Childress, Texas where the local mechanics set to, repairing the car. The part had to come down from Amarillo so I spent the day on the main street, hanging out with the locals who were very friendly, drinking 'rodeo beer' (aka warm beer), watching the tumbleweed roll down the road and generally chewing the fat until the car was fixed.
There were plenty more exciting things that happened, and I link them all to that first car, Ms Chickadee, and her dogged determination to get me all the way to Florida, one mile at a time. From there, we traveled up to Atlanta where I stayed for several years.
It was a sad day when Chickadee and I parted. She was old and tired, and I needed something newer and more practical, and I'd been wowed by a flash Toyota station wagon - so we parted ways, but not without ceremony. Some friends and I drank rodeo beer one summer afternoon, several toasts to this brave little car who had taken such good care of me and seen me safely through so much.
Do you have a story about your first car? What colour was it, what make? Where did it take you? What adventures did you share? Did it have a name?