Summers spent in the country and on the coast

As children, my sisters and I spent our summers dashing across hot sand at the beach, or bounding over dry patches of prickles in a country backyard.

My mum’s parents, who we called Maime and Da, lived in a house on a hill in Wagstaffe, on the central coast, with water views, rocking chairs, and a sweetie jar filled to the brim.

My dad’s parents, Nan and Pete, lived on the outskirts of Tamworth, in a house with bright vintage wallpaper, carpet in the kitchen, and an orchard of citrus trees.

A visit to Tamworth meant sitting on Pete’s lap as he drove the ride-on lawnmower across his front yard. We ate Homebrand chocolate-coated ice creams on the back steps, racing the sun before the sticky liquid ran down our wrists.

My grandparents had a ping-pong table in their garage and once Nan – a woman known for her bear hugs and baking – came downstairs with hair rollers in, and quietly outed herself as a table tennis grandmaster.

One afternoon, I saw Pete had carved “This bloody drought” into the outdoor table. I told Nan he’d written a swear word and watched on guiltily as Pete scrubbed out his small act of defiance.

We would run over the brittle grass from their backyard to the neighbours’ pool, sometimes accompanied by Pete in his lobster-print board shorts, begging us not to stay underwater for too long so we didn’t get the bends.

A visit to Wagstaffe meant mornings and afternoons at the beach, and spending the long hours in between sneaking sweets from the jar, walking downhill to the corner shop for Bubble O’ Bills, or exploring little bays.

Maime never seemed old. She wandered through rock pools and scaled beach cliffs with us, and was determined to get the pronunciation of “cool” just right.

She let us play the CDs we bought with our Christmas vouchers, but only if she could put on her Swoon classical music compilation, an album she sometimes mistakenly called “Smooch”.

Da was a keen do-er. He had a boat, brewed beer, made marmalade, painted, woodworked, and taught himself basic piano.

He had a cheeky sense of humour and took delight in bending his first and middle fingers, holding them up to the curved side of a dessert spoon, and showing us the reflection looked like a bum.

Summer later took on pangs of nostalgia as our grandparents died when we were teenagers, or in our 20s.

Now I watch as my daughters frolic at Copacabana Beach with their grandmother, or wave to me while they sit on my dad’s lap as he drives the ride-on lawnmower at my parents’ property in Orange.

Summer is as it was.