It didn’t start until an hour past their bedtime, and it meant not getting home until 10pm. It was a school night. The parking was going to be difficult. It was starting to rain. There were so many reasons not to put our pyjama-clad six- and three-year-olds into the car and head into the city last Wednesday night, but still we went.
Lily packed everything we might need in her fluffy butterfly backpack: drink bottles, a small organza gift bag, a gold purse that belonged to my nana, a twenty cent coin and a slightly broken maze puzzle.
On the drive in, we watched the dark clouds bloom brightly around the slowly falling sun. My normally quiet city had come alive for the Fringe and Festival. The East End was humming: antenna-wearing pub crawlers, sleek prowling lads, tipsy hens in shrill pink dresses, elderly couples conspiring together, carnies in striped suits lugging odd paraphernalia, and a pair of kids in slippers and hooded dressing gowns.
The city at night is an adventure. Small fingers stroked the fuzzy artificial grass on a restaurant wall and attempted to lift shiny coins embedded in the sidewalk. Wide eyes took in quirky shop displays, gleaming motorbikes, a circus tent across the road, the smallest car ever seen. We sat at a table outside, enjoying the mild night, eating chocolate ice cream and watching the world go by. When the rain started again, we moved inside and sank into a big orange couch to finish our treats. The kids were buzzing with sugar and life.
The shower passed, and we started walking towards the car. “Not back to the car yet!” begged Lily. We reached our carpark and kept going; it was not bedtime yet. All along North Terrace, the usually sombre and stately old buildings had come alive with dazzling displays of projected lights and images. The kids watched enchanted as fish swam across the Art Gallery, Dreaming stories decorated the Museum and one of the university buildings was transformed into a circus tent.
Then there was a street performer making bubbles from smoke and rainbows, a white puffball of a dog, a bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. There were steps to leap from and water features to examine. It was a lot to take in.
When we finally got back to the car, Lily asked for a story about when I was a little girl for the drive home. I’m sometimes disappointed by the meagre handful of childhood memories I’ve brought with me through to adulthood. There are pieces of memory, of course, sensations and scenes, but not many complete stories that unravel neatly from beginning to end. I told Lily that she needed to make some memories herself to tell a little girl or boy of her own one day.
I don’t understand the science of memory; the system through which some memories are filed and some discarded seems a little strange and random. Sometimes I wonder which experiences will become locked in as my kids’ first memories. I hope an event such as this night in the city might make the grade, rather than me telling them I can’t play now as I have to hang out washing. Perhaps it won’t settle in their brains as a complete narrative, but maybe as a few bright images, or even just as an imprint that our family does spontaneous things and has adventures together. Maybe they won’t remember a thing about the night. That’s ok too.
All I know is that sometimes you have forget all the possible repercussions of a late night adventure, and just go.