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Holiday Snaps

By Peter Walker

Peter Walker reflects on being a child of divorce and a separated father

“It’s a holi-holi-day.” Who sang that? Ever since I decided to write about the holidays I’ve had that tune repeating in my head. And it’s reaching annoying point.

One of the most frustrating things in my life is that I have practically no memory of my childhood years, much before turning about ten.

I used to wonder if those years were so traumatic that I have blanked them out; but in reality I tend to think that they were just so boring and dysfunctional (and relatively trauma free) that I just couldn’t be bothered to record anything in my memory banks, hardly thinking I would want boring memories thirty years later.

Because it’s all such a blur, what I do have is a hodgepodge of memories. Sometimes I think I was nine when I did this certain thing I’m thinking about, but in the course of a conversation my mother reminds me that I was actually only six.

Or vice-versa. An event that I’m one hundred percent certain happened when I was four, actually occurred when I was eleven. Weird.

I guess school holidays used to be a whole lot more boring than they are now. In the seventies there were no Play-stations, SKY TV, Timeouts, kids movies, computers and Internet, or malls. We did everything the old fashioned way. Somehow, though, I suspect that our activities were a whole lot more satisfying and politically incorrect, but that’s another column.

Which brings me to what I was really thinking about when I decided to write about the holidays. One of the few things Dave (my father) and I did regularly was go to the Citizens Club picnic. I can’t for the life of me remember where it was.

A beach somewhere, which suggests we travelled at least a little distance from Rotorua. We spent a couple of days in a caravan with hundreds (dozens?) of other Citz. Club members (they had their own caravans, we weren’t all squeezed into ours) and had three-legged races, drank beer, had BBQ’s, drank beer, swam in the surf, drank beer, and the grand finale, a Tug-of-war.

And lots of beer was consumed, too.

I must have been twelve or so when for those two or three years we went to the Citz. Club picnics. I remember noticing for the first time girls in swimsuits. And even more spectacular, women in swimsuits. I remember being able to run free, unsupervised, feeling grown-up.

I remember hot dogs and jandals, candy floss and sunny, pre- la nina days. I remember being anxious every year, hoping Ngaire would be there again (another story).

I have three blurry photos from the 1979 picnic. Two of the tug-of-wars and one photo of Dave, a man called Jim and five dogs all sitting outside the caravan. I don’t remember taking that photo.

I wonder what my boys will remember of their holidays spent with their dad. I work on having them for at least three weeks of their holidays each year, and doing normal father/son things – golf, pool, movies, and I even conned them into doing a bit of gardening and helping me around the house this week. My ego hopes they will remember the time fondly.

My sense of nostalgia hopes they will remember special times. Sometimes I am anxious they will only resent the little time we do have together (as I do the little time Dave and I had).

Mostly I hope, partly selfishly, that, under the circumstances, I’m being the best father I can be.

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