By All Accounts, A Most Incredible Year
More than 400,000 music fans attended Woodstock. Sesame Street started teaching children all the ingredients that make up a sunny day. The Beatles recorded their final album, Abbey Road. Boeing debuted the 747 jumbo jet. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid entertained film goers while on the small screen Roger Moore was still a saint and John Cleese introduced the world to a new kind of humour.
But I don’t, and cannot, remember any of this.
I was too young, and yet that doesn’t mean 1969 wasn’t a significant year for me because it was.
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I didn’t know what was going on, only that my parents were going away without me. My brothers and I were left behind with our Aunty Pat and Uncle Len. They had four children and lived in a relatively small, crowded house, so the addition of another four children made it even more crowded. I remember crying myself to sleep and Aunty Pat hugging me and telling me everything was ok. But I didn’t see it that way and the warmth of her hugs only made me cry all the more. Somehow I knew everything was about to change, and I was scared.
We moved to Townsville, away from family and home. I realise how hard that must have been for my parents now I’m older, and (hopefully) wiser. Once surrounded by uncles, aunties, and cousins, suddenly it was only mum and dad and my brothers. We went from having crazy Sunday roast dinners, balanced on a stool, squashed at the corner of the table, elbow to elbow with my grandmother on one side and my grandfather on the other, to quiet picnic dinners with cold meats and salads laid out on a gingham tablecloth carefully anchored beneath swaying palms that lined the beach front.
Watching television was a treat. Having a television was a privilege even if it was an old black and white model with rabbit ears that struggled to pick up a signal. I loved to watch Bewitched and recall being perplexed that the opening credits were cartoon although the rest of the program wasn’t. I would sit through it, though barely paying attention, patiently waiting for the closing credits just to see Samantha ride away on her broom.
I turned six and space exploration changed forever. I was in grade one and I sat surrounded by others at school. I remember the room was full of students and teachers from other grades. An area that normally held twenty suddenly bulged with three or four times that number. I remember a moment of eerie silence as we directed our attention to an old black and white television, it lived on a trolley that raised it above the heads of everyone in the room. And, I remember watching Neil Armstrong take “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind”.
I remember breaking my leg as if it happened only yesterday but thank goodness I don’t remember the pain as my bone gave way just below the knee. I always played with my brothers and the boys next door. I never thought I was a tomboy, I only had them to play with and they simply got too rough one day and my tibia paid the price. I can still see my father jumping the fence to pick me up and put me in the car and my mother running every red light to get me to the hospital as quickly as possible. And I can still hear the blood-curdling scream that escaped my mouth when the doctor lifted my leg to look at it.
My plaster was gone. It was fascinating how some parts dissolved and other areas remained stoic against the onslaught of little fingers and copious volumes of water from the garden hose. Mum was not impressed, neither was the doctor. My heart sped up in unison with his hand-held rotary saw. Surely he was going to cut off my leg, and yet he only severed the remaining section of plaster and I went back to school after missing six weeks.
I remember squashing into the back seat of our family car and going to the drive-in to watch Dick Van Dyke fly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Perhaps we sat on the bonnet of my parent’s car, perhaps we didn’t. Perhaps we peered over the back of the front seats, or perhaps didn’t and sat beside the car in fold up chairs. We did spend a lot of time slapping mosquitoes and wishing we had the money for one of those chocolate topped ice-creams.
Christmas was a solo affair. There was no rushing from our house, back and forth from one set of grandparents to the next. No crazy hugs and kisses from cousins I never knew, and no oddball gifts from distant aunts or uncles.
Mum lined us up in the front yard with the gifts that had arrived overnight. “Hold still!” she said as she wound the film. “Smile for Nanna”. “Smile for Grandma and Pa.” Simple snapshots really to show we enjoyed Christmas 1969.
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There are so many things I remember about that year, but three things are forever etched in my mind – moving to a new city, breaking my leg, and Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon.
In response to the WordPress Discover Challenge – Snapshots