I should start by saying that jumping is done under supervision. At high tide. The drop is less than three metres. No diving is allowed. As in so much in life, the spectre is far scarier than the reality.
And so the kids take their turn.
Their anticipation is equal parts fear and excitement, even though they’ve all jumped before, except the two year old of course who will accomplish this feat in future years, no doubt at a younger age than the others first braved the challenge. Little Yang stands transfixed in a mix of awe and jealousy – ‘my turn, my turn, I jump, I jump’, his repeated refrain. But for some of life’s adventures there is such a thing as not being quite ready. No doubt next year, aged 3 years 9 months, his time will come. He is clearly champing at the bit.
Miss Yin has nothing to prove – she jumped in 2010, aged 7, and now there’s no shame in standing firm in her fear, or her strident stubbornness. She will not jump. Frankly I was surprised (and proud) when she finally plucked up the courage two years ago. New things come hard to a girl who is cautious by nature, yet confident in familiarity and mastery. I’d love her to be braver, yet I’m also proud that she is prepared to hold steady on what she wants to do (or not to do). I hope this resolve stands her in good stead in the face of peer pressure in her teenage years.
At 7, the youngest boy cousin currently holds the mantle of littlest dare devil, having first jumped to his Dad below when aged just four. He is excitement broadcast over a loudspeaker! He has baulked before though, skittish at doing the jump in 2010, along with the girl cousin, who is the same age as Miss Yin and almost had another attack of the frights this year too. In the end she jumped twice to dispel the doubts.
Leading the way, the oldest cousin, 11, completed several jumps, just for the fun of it. He makes it look easy.
The water is still cold this time of year and it shocks when you hit. It clears the sinuses and the mind.
Brunswick Heads sees me at my laziest (or perhaps I should say most leisurely). It’s a slothful break as much as a spiritual renewal. I stare out at the old bridge that crosses the creek running in front of our cabin, reassured it’s still standing, but only bothering to actually cross it a few times to go to the beach. I loll around. I do even less housework than normal in our messy little cabin. I really should paddle more – the water is so inviting (I only manage two paddles over the whole week). I could swim more, walk more, actually go for a run on the beach (who am I kidding). I could pump yabbies, wet a line, catch a fish (who am I kidding!!). Sometimes I’m so lethargic I could be a spectator at my own holiday.
Brunswick is a coming home. For Little Yang it’s all a new adventure – the excitement of discovery and really getting to know his cousins. For Miss Yin it is familiar, the company and comfort of family. For all of us it’s family. For us adults it’s far too much celebratory drinking because we are together, and that’s what our family does. For Mr Yang it is boating and fishing (ie wasting time) and settling into the slow soundtrack of life that is his natural rhythm. For me it is a soulful rest and a coveted chance to sleep-in. I get to waste so much time (ie read, write) gleefully. I read entire books, sit and settle in the same spot like some old person on their porch or patio – watching the world go by or the play erupting loudly around me. Part of me knows I should make more effort to join in the fun, but the joy is contagious and I just need to bear witness to it. It is enough.
Except I decide to jump. Off the bridge first, clutching a laughing Buddha, just for a bit of a laugh. My comparative courage in looking stupid still doesn’t convince Miss Yin, although my sister and brother join Mr Yang and the other kids to make the jump.
And then I join in as we take turns to swing off a rope, Tarzan-style from the creek bank, landing like a stone in the cold clear water. My brother and then Mr Yang take the first two turns, testing the strength of the rope. As they each jump there is slight trepidation – will the rope take their weight?
While our jumping adventures are hardly reckless, there’s still an exhilaration in conquering even a few nervous fears, and definitely in surrendering to a sheer sense of unbridled fun. Childish frivolity. For the kids, jumping is a ‘right of passage’, a tradition that needs to be honoured, the making of a childhood.
We missed our annual Brunswick Heads holiday when we lived in Canada last year, and returning now has really reinforced that we are home. We make memories each and every moment of our week in Brunswick, just as we have the chance to in every minute of our lives.
We can choose to jump, even if it is a little scary or we feel a little silly. We can choose to celebrate, even when things aren’t perfect. We can choose to participate – to paddle, to swim, to huff and puff in a run-walk along the beach, to push ourselves even when it’s hard. We can choose to relax and give ourselves the rest we need, even when there is something else we really should be doing. It. Can. Wait.
We can choose to always appreciate our family and receive and reciprocate their care and concern all year round, especially when things get hard, as they do, just as we can choose to recall that special combination of frivolity and serenity we feel on a holiday whenever things get crazy. As they will.
And now I can choose to stop tapping away at this post, to let myself drift off dreamily into a nanna nap, to believe that life is really one big holiday, and wake up ready to jump right into it!
PS – After my little power nap, I get ready for a few drinks at the Brunswick Heads Hotel to celebrate our last night (actually we’ve had a few drinks every night!). I can’t believe how grateful I am for my family and for my parents for giving us this special holiday each year. Perhaps I might burst!