‘We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.’
Conversely, as kids grow up they often convince themselves and friends around them that their parents and families are the most fucked up, when in reality all families are fucked up – just some more than others. And no matter how fucked up you think your family is, trust me there are a million more fucked up than yours.
If you don’t believe me or are one of those competitive or combative types that feels injured by your upbringing, that likes the fabric of sympathy, or feel your parents should hold some blame – try growing up with parents obsessed about your height yet rejected the ritual of lining you up against a tape measure for fear it would nurture complexes of inferiority, or worse, supremacy.
So I grew up constantly being bullied under road signs and being photographed to document my height.
The pleasant consequence was we travelled loads – camping and sleeping in lay-bys, carrying a house on the roof rack and back of our Mitsubishi Pajero and living a rather itinerant lifestyle as we continually search for new road signs.
When I was younger I used to think this compulsion for recording my height with road signs came from my mother.
She was born in England, land of imperial measurement and immigrated to Australia. I presumed it was her natural distrust of the metric system and tape measures that cajoled me under signs on obscure and remote road sides and inland highways.
Who then passed the fixation onto my mum.
At least they got more accurate as I got older.
We even travelled the 283km out of the way to the start of the Birdsville Track during torrential rain that turned the track into mud and our car into an aquaplane to obtain a calibrated photo of my exact height at the age of nine, nine months and twenty-six days old.
For our trouble we got marooned in Birdsville because of floods for four days. It was fun because we got to stay in a crumby hotel that had shitty TV reception and only broadcast the ABC. The floods kept the Birdsville Track closed the following day so we abandoned our onward mission to travel on the Birdsville Track and returned the 283km back to the interstate highway.
And when my parents were low on film, or rushed for time they bribed us with gas station sweets and rallied my sisters and brother and me under a single sign. With an old Nikon they shot from the hip to play the percentages with our varying heights – which occasionally worked.
At the time my younger sister was in the habit of mimicking my dad. Meanwhile my older brother was also going through a phase of putting his little bro and mates in headlocks for photos – a precursor and variation of the Top Gun homo-masculine fisted-punch hug that would hit cinemas at the end of the month.
I didn’t nominally believe much of what my older brother said, because I’d learnt it was often a parlous or embarrassing exercise. But I was obsessed with dinosaurs growing up and liked the idea of humungous dinosaur droppings littering the Aussie outback.
It was an ineffaceable reminder to the history of the dirt between our toes and appealed to my juvenile imagination. After all – it’s not hard to imagine they’re giant shit patties.
To further explain it was also the era of leaning against crap in photos (sometimes literally) to look cool.
When my parents tried to take an ordinary family photo without a road sign they clearly struggled with general composition, and balancing foreground against background.
I must point out it’s not my intention to expose some suppressed sense of emotional childhood abuse here. We did have a lot of good times and fun under signs.
I’m not sure why my younger sister is showing off her muscles but I like how it offsets all the work going on by my older brother and sister and me to look cool.
And anyway home is a smell and a feeling that sometimes we only know where it is when we’re returning.