Through the 80’s my parents owned and ran a beach resort in Yallingup. I say “resort” because that’s what it was called, but in reality, it was a bunch of simple red brick self-contained units with modest décor and a barbeque area, just a short stroll from the best beach in the world. In the late 80’s, a whole family could stay for just $35/ night.
The best things about living in a beach resort were; racing straight into the units after guests left to see what food they left in the fridge and what belongings they’d accidentally left behind; the “regulars” who came at Easter and Christmas and who always brought gifts; and Shelli and Richard, the young couple who lived permanently in the ‘Hobbit Hole’, the unit downstairs that was dark and unfinished.
It didn’t matter that the unit was dark, for Shelli was the sun.
Magical, like a unicorn.
Full of laughter and tears.
The most expressive, fully alive person in my young life and we adored her and her earthy beauty.
She taught us nachos and how to braid hair. She travelled to exotic places like India and brought home amazing pens covered in beads and mirror.
And Richard, who was all long hair, kindness and gentle laughter.
In addition to running the beach resort, Dad taught woodwork at Margaret River District High. He has spent much of his early career teaching in remote places like Tom Price and Meekatharra.
During school holidays we would pack our caravan and head North. Shelley would take care of the units and we’d be rid of the demands of strangers for a few weeks.
Dad didn’t like to stay in places where tourists gathered, so instead of the popular spots like Monkey Mia and Coral Bay, Dad used to take us to the less crowded spots; Newman, Tom Price, Wittenoom, Red Bluff, Nanga Station. He also didn’t like to pay for accommodation so we stayed roadside whenever we could.
It was usually just Dad and the four girls. Mum often stayed behind. When Liz and Jenn were little they must have stayed home sometimes too as I remember trips that were just me, Dad and Kath.
Leigh, the girls and I are on our way to Coral Bay. Being on the road makes me nostalgic for my childhood. My girls have iPads, colouring books and DVD players in the car. I like to tell them about the things my three sisters and I did when we were their age.
And at times, I feel like I’m getting a childhood do-over.
A good early 90’s road trip involved mixed tapes; many, many imaginary horses; Jenna and Liz’s imaginary arch nemesis Casuarina and their best buddies Megan and Jodie (also imaginary), and sometimes we also took our good friend Marni (an actual human).
Our very favourite thing to do was to stand on the side of the highway waiting for road trains to pass. When a road train approached, we would wave frantically and gesture for the driver to pull on their air horn. They nearly always did, and every single time we nearly peed our pants with excitement.
We could wait by the side of the road for a good 30 minutes without losing hope. No wonder Dad always encouraged it.
This is a family tradition my own children have adopted with such gusto it brings a tear to my eye to watch…