My very first water experience is in my mother’s womb. I’m safe, secure, warm. I swim, mermaid-like, do somersaults and swallow the magic fluid. I imagine that I’ll never leave this watery place.
At Waterview the humid scorching air engulfs us; the heat, ruthless, tears at our skin and sends us kids scurrying towards water. My brothers swing like Tarzan from overhanging scribbly gums, and jump into the creek on Dad’s bush paddock. Launching themselves from tree roots embedded in the banks, they dive and bomb one another scattering tiny snakes and tree frogs that hide in the depths. I jump in and feel the clay squelchy and squidgy between my toes.
I try to hide my fears of the depths and copy my brothers in derring do. Yellow belly fear, like the bloated green tree frogs with bulging eyes staring down from the rafters of the outhouse, ready to pounce, gobble me up; green waters swirling; amphibian annihilation.
I don’t know where it came from: the fear. My elder brother went off to school at four and found a solid niche for himself within his intellect. Donny, the other brother, was fearless as a warrior. As soon as he could run, he climbed tall trees in search of birds’ eggs, rode bareback and played the clown at school. I was Minny-Ha-Ha to his Hiawatha the Brave.
Often I was afraid of the dark. One time I screamed out in the middle of the night: “Monsters. Big bogey man…under the bed…” Dad raced into the kids’ bedroom and flashed his torch underneath my bed. I wanted to crawl in between him and Mum in their double bed, but it was out of bounds. I crawled in with Donny instead, snuggled up to his naked body; felt the flip of his penis like a lizard as he moved over to let me in; and fell into a deep sleep.
One day my father drove Mum and me to Moree. I don’t know why I was singled out in this way, perhaps simply that I was the youngest child. What I do know, is that for a day or two, I was the chosen one. The littlest princess. My brothers, only five and six, were left at Grandma’s farm, directly across the Highway from our house.