Haunted by a holiday

UPDATE 1: since my post the other week I have kick-to-kicked the football with my dad twice. So healing. I’m still pretty bad at it, but I’m improving and it’s such a genuine delight to redeem this painful, developmental memory. It’s also given me an insight into my dad. Like he’s not the kind of guy who initiates something and he’s even a bit reluctant to come and say, ‘can I join in?’ I need to reinterpret my memories in light of his personality and not my childish inclination to see him as cold.

UPDATE 2: the morning after I wrote about my lack of desperation for God and life an email from Desiring God blog arrived in my inbox called “God make me desperate”. Timely, much? Those kinds of non-coincidences usually seem to happen to other people.

Now to this post…

WHEN I was
a kid my family would visit my uncle in Canberra (the national capital) and then travel to the New South Wales coastal town of Bermagui for several days in a house near the beach. Great times of sand, waves crashing on young skin, family interaction and general peace obviously followed.

Now, in a way, this place haunts me. When I think about a holiday my first thought isn’t Europe, but ‘Bermagui’ and then a warm inner glow comes over me. It stands in my memory as the moments when everything in my childhood was close enough to perfect. Even though, I know it wasn’t.

’Cause one holiday at Bermagui my sister and I were compelled to build networks of dams in the sand that captured the ocean. As the waves rolled in we’d build higher, stronger walls and more and more connecting dams. For some reason at that time, on that day it was perfectly balanced, so the waves weren’t strong enough to ruin our dams, but they delivered water to fill them. I think it was near the end of this particular holiday and our week there had thawed each of our -mum, dad, sister, me- hearts. It came time to go. And my sister and I didn’t want to. We needed to suck the marrow out of this moment for as long as possible even as cooling air called us inside.

Times change and we couldn’t go back to Bermagui, but for a while when we went on beach holidays we tried to bring back this moment. (Usually tentatively, because we didn’t want to expose our dam-making fairy tale to the light of reality.) And of course we couldn’t. The ocean was too strong or too weak or the sand was too gritty. And we were different as well. We could never go back, never recapture what happened one late afternoon on a pristine beach in the twilight of our childhood.

So I know I can’t return to a memory…

But I’m still pondering the idea of taking myself, my Bible, Mark Driscoll’s Death by Love, Mark Buchanan’s Things Unseen and Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth and spending a good 10 days in a holiday house near the beach. No internet; no one else there and just cleaning out my mind. (My uncle and cousin live near by and I’m sure there’s mobile phone coverage, so it won’t be a complete escape, but that’s good as well).

Just thinking about it makes me excited. And it’s so cheap if I go before school holidays…only $640 for 10 nights in a nice looking two bedroom bungalow walking distance from the beach in the middle of nowhere.



6 thoughts on “Haunted by a holiday

  1. Wow, I love your story telling abilities, it almost felt like you were somehow recalling a memory so vivid it must have been my own! That retreat certainly sounds refreshing. Maybe I should look into something like that…

  2. Ya I also remember family vacations as a child as being so great and perfect looking back. Of course I am sure they were not but thinking of them now it seems so.Its a great idea you have to take a little vacation from the world with just you and God. I hope you are able to do it! 

  3. That sounds like a lot of fun, and $640 for 10 days, wow that is cheap!! You know you can’t reclaim the past, but it sounds like you’re beginning to look at that childhood with adult eyes and understanding.   As you do so, you’ll find it so much easier to deconstruct the thinking which helped you feel emotionally disconnected, and “different” from other boys.  I’m also very glad to hear of the healing simple things like kicking around a football with your dad can be.   Good stuff Chris, thanks for the continuing insights your sharing.   Keep it up!!!

  4. @Andthistooshallcometopass – would the extrovert’s equivalent to my retreat be taking their five favourite people to the busiest city on the planet, haha

  5. Mad props….EXCELLENT writing.  Pleased over your healing and your greater understanding of your father and yourself.As for the trip….the return on investment of this trip is priceless….what are you waiting for?

  6. @Chrisjb7 – Hahaha, I’m already getting jazzed just thinking about it! But honestly, I’ve learned that my favorite thing is longer time with just one person. It’s more about quality, not quantity. I just hate being alone!

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