It was just a bare patch of hard-packed earth with a light dusting of fine gravel over it, my shoes crunching when I walked, the sound rippling across the hot ground. Overhead the cobalt sky faded to a soft baby blue at the horizon. The caw of invisible crows pierced the canopy of a nearby camphor-laurel tree and floated to me on the crisp spring breeze. I stared at that patch of ground and in my head I heard again the crack of bat on ball, the bark of a dog, delighted cries of children playing barefoot and dusty.
Every year Dad would pack my three sisters and me up for the four hour drive to Brisbane. The windows of the car would be down and the dusty wind whipped my hair across my face, stinging my cheeks and making my eyes water. The four hour trip often took longer than that. I suffered from travel sickness and we had to stop every half hour for me to get out and walk around until my stomach settled. No one minded the frequent stops – they had all experienced the alternative.
Our holiday never began straight away. I always needed the rest of the day sitting in one spot so my stomach would stop churning. The second day of the holiday we'd all walk down to the park. We stayed with my aunt and uncle and their family, so there was a tribe of us. We'd haul picnic baskets, blankets, bats and balls down the hill toward the river and set up under one of the huge jacaranda trees dotted over the lawn. By the end of the summer, the grass was patchy, the hard-packed dirt showing through.
Off to one side of the round picnic area, regulars had tamped out a rectangular patch of gravelly dirt as a cricket pitch.
As I stood there, staring at the bare dirt in front of me, those days came rushing back. I felt again, the hot summer sun baking the back of my neck, the glare of the light glinting of the river, the smell of fresh-cut grass and newly dropped dog poo. The air is again scented with the innocent sweat of children, and the sounds of them chasing dogs and balls then flopping onto the blankets to suck thirstily at water bottles.
E E Montgomery
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