When I was a kid I used to plan to run away from home at least once a month. I’d sort through my clothes, working out what I would take, when I would leave and where I would sleep. I was convinced I could find shelter and learn to live with using a twig for a toothbrush.
It wasn’t that I was unhappy at home, on the contrary, I was deliciously happy in our little, snug as a bug, family life. We had grand adventures at every turn. Hiking up and down mountains, with sausages cooked (often to a crisp) over an open fire as the regular victor’s meal. There were impromptu bush survival courses run by my dad, where we learned about the brilliance of a lean-to and how to wrap a sticky concoction of flour, sugar and water around a stick and cook it over the fire to turn it into the sweetest bread you ever tasted.
There were weekend trips to the coast in dad’s trusty work ute, all four of us wedged in a row, the glovebox filled with classic tapes like The Platters and Nat King Cole. We’d sing along, occasionally repositioning to allow for a change of gears; while our Westie’s wet, black nose rested against someone’s bare leg from her spot on the floor. Then there were the weekends when we stayed local and rode our bikes from one side of Canberra to the other, dropping in on friends for tea and cake, before riding back home again. I can still recall the heat of summer pressing against my face, peddling up hills as though the hounds of hell were behind me and determined, as the youngest, not to be left behind or whinge. I was often unsuccessful on both accounts, but I was happy.
I was barely walking before I was feeding kangaroos, wallabies and dodging overly zealous emus. I grew up knowing how to walk with snakes in mind, tie a tourniquet, spot possums in trees, shake spiders out of my shoes and clothes before putting them on, bait a hook and gut and scale my catch. My collections weren’t of dolls but of small worn operculum gathered on the beach, and other flotsam and jetsam that held no monetary value but were spellbinding beautiful.
I was always amazed to hear my friend’s stories of their weekends spent at home, watching TV or playing in the backyard. Perpetually surprised that everyone else wasn’t on this dizzying trail of adventure. Exploring pockets of life at every opportunity.
So when it came to making plans to run away, it truly wasn’t that I was unhappy with my lot in life. It was simply that my little gypsy spirit was unfurling and expanding faster than everyone could keep pace with and I didn’t know how, or even if I wanted, to control it.
My parents tethered me with love and home-made cooking, but also with clear instructions that I was only permitted to take with me what I had purchased or received as a present. Which left me with little other than the doll’s clothes on my back… I only made it three houses away before I stopped, tried them on, and realised I needed a better plan. I trudged back home to find my parents standing on the doorstep, pretending to wail like banshees, beating their chests, begging me not to leave. Between humiliation and a lack of apparel it was a no brainer.
And so with running away not really an option, but with even our gallivanting around the country limited by the obligations of bills and getting an education, I would feed my need for change by reinventing my surrounds. My bedroom was in a constant flux of redesign, a kaleidoscope of changing colours and textures and shapes. It was not unusual to find my ten year-old self pushing her bed across the room into a new positions at nine o’clock at night or unpacking her bookshelf for a complete overhaul. These late night transformation allowing me to wake up to an entirely new environment.
One of my fondest memories is when as a teenager my parents bought a caravan and parked it next to our summer cottage. Meant for guests, I requisitioned it whenever it was vacant. Moving myself out of the main cabin and the bunk I shared with my brother, to build my first little nest on wheels. I surrounded myself with books, shells and cups of tea. It was magical.
Until then I had always imagined fitting my own bed with wheels, a canopy for inclement weather and whizzing off down the streets on uncharted adventures. I paid no attention to the details of how I would get that motor-less bed up hills, steer it around corners or bring it to a stop at the edge of cliffs. And the caravan, anchored though it was, was one step closer to this brilliant plan.
From that day onwards I was independently moving forward, seeking out change, looking for overgrown pathways, hidden corners of life – new adventures. Whether they be small or grand. It would take a few hairpins, steep descents, near misses and outright fender benders before I learnt the value of negotiation, acceleration and braking. Sometimes I still hit the wrong peddle, head off in the wrong direction and, to break the analogy, put my foot in it. But if a girl (even a 43 year old one) can’t dream of sailing off down the street on her magical bed on wheels, without fear of consequence or judgement, seeking out adventures, well then… where’s the fun in that?
Do you have a version of a magical bed on wheels and, if so, what adventures has it taken you on?