A family was camping, and had had two beautiful days out in the sunshine. But it was time to move on. Time, in fact, for Day Three.
We packed up (and oh, it takes a long time to pack up camp!), and went up North.
North to the place I went as a child with my family, when my family was intact; where I then went as a young adult with my father and my grandmother for Christmas, and years later visited as an adult with my then-boyfriend and University friends.
Ah. That's a long ribbon of history. I was about to add another bright bead to it. A visit with my husband and kids.
As we turned up the road into the National Park I thought, But it's paved!
Because when I was a kid, the road was all dirt and pock-marked and we'd bounce through the ruts in our little Suzuki van. And when a car came towards us, dirt cloud flying, we'd scramble to shut our windows, singing out, "Close all windows, Emergency Call!" Always with the same singsong sound.
You could begin to see the Dunes rising up behind the trees to our right. I said to my kids, Look! Look! They glanced up from their wild role-playing game with their toys, said, Cool! and returned to their game.
But I remember as a child just staring, and gaping, and thinking, They're so big! So big!
We checked out camp grounds, wanting to find one with a fireplace
because when I was a child we had a fire.
And found a campsite, just by the lake. A little way off from the water, in a fenced off area set up for three groups of campers.
And I remembered that when I was a child, we drove up and parked right next to the water. There were no cordoned off camping spaces, just the natural space the trees made. We nestled our little tent in between the trees and woke to the lapping sound of lakewater.
I went down to the water's edge
and the lake, and the trees leaning out, looked exactly the same as they did when I was a child.
It was stunning. I thought, I think we're camping in the same place! It looked just like it. There was one tree especially that called to me; it curved out over the water like the dipped neck of a swan.
And suddenly I could picture my sister and I clambering out over that tree. My sister, always the more daring one, always went further, while I watched, delighted.
She and I explored every tree near our campsite, climbed along them (or up!). We were daredevil explorers then. The whole campsite was our glorious wilderness.
A little while later, I went off to the nearby enviro-toilets. They were a marvel. They were completely clean and odourless; they were the latest in pit-toilet, nature-loo technology. I was very impressed! (As impressed as you can be, by a loo).
And I remembered that as a child, I was given a shovel and toilet paper…
After setting up camp, it was time to collect some wood for the fire. For some reason I missed the sign that said, "Please don't use the wood from the Park; the grubs and insects and earth need it." I saw that the next day and we promptly went and bought firewood. But on this day, I was still living in my memories, where
my father and mother would drive up and down the dirt road and we'd spot firewood lying on the ground. We'd gather huge armfuls, and pile the wood into the back of our little van. I remember chopping it up back at camp, with our bright, sharp axe.
So we did the same. We drove along and tried to find wood, and my husband crackled about in the bushes in his boots. We found one beauty, a long, thin fallen treetrunk. We thought we could jump on it to snap it. No go. We tried leaning it on the car and breaking off a piece. Nup. We tried running it over with the car! It would not budge. By this time my husband and I were laughing so hard we were bent over. The kids thought we were nuts. Then my husband got into the car, leaned over and picked up the trunk, somehow juggled it so he was holding it with a single hand outside the driver window, and drove back to the campsite, pulling the tree along with him.
We must have looked like crazy people!!
And the whole time I could see my parents in the front of the van, talking and laughing. The wood piled up behind us. My sister beside me. Sun shining.
Then it was time to visit the Dunes.
We drove to the beach access path. I actually felt butterflies. Would it be the same? Would my children like it? Would the dunes be as big?
Yes, it was.
Yes, they did.
Yes, they were.
And I remembered sliding down the dunes with my sister, wild haired and laughing…
Walking up to the dunes with my grandmother. She with her stick. My dad and I holding kites, ready to launch them into the wind.
Striding along endless waves of sand with my university friends, carting surfboards in the bright sun, under the bluest sky.
The pictures flashed up, one after another. Like my history was standing beside me, watchful and precious, like tissue paper pictures, placed delicately over one other.
we made our own memories. Made new pictures. Made another layer of sweet history.
And the Past smiled.