By Laura Galea
When I was a kid, my parents owned and ran two businesses – a chicken and seafood shop and a donut shop. Being children, we spent most of our time at the donut shop. Those were certainly the days – sitting on the counter with my big sis – sharing a banana-chocolate milkshake with two straws, requesting hot donuts in the morning and then taking them to school the next day to share with our friends, waiting for our baby brother to fall asleep and then placing him in the front window, right next to the jam donuts, sticking a “Today’s Special” sign on his nappy.
Of course, on holidays with my parents busy working – this meant my siblings and I spent a lot of time with our grandparents. It was entertaining for the most part. I loved stories – not so much picture books at the time, but the stories my grandparents told me about when they were children. Everything seemed to be an adventure – there was the time my grandfather was chased by a horse or the time my grandmother had a pet goat. These stories seemed so far away from the story that I was living in at the time.
On school holidays, we spent our summers outside kicking around an empty coke bottle as a football (no, seriously!) and our winters were spent inside. I used to bring my Barbie dolls and the ONE Ken doll I had to play with (my sister and I had to share). I can still remember my grandmother telling me that I couldn’t undress my Barbies at any time, no matter how much I disliked their outfits – clothes always stayed on! I thought I was a seven-year-old genius when I came up with the brilliant plan of dressing my Barbies in layers upon layers (the morning before going to my grandmother’s house), that way I could still take their clothes off and she wouldn’t see their plastic naked bodies. It was a win-win situation for everybody.
There were the odd days where Barbie’s company was lacking and I had resorted to listening to my grandmother read a prayer book aloud to my sister and brothers. Then one day, someone (I’m still not sure who) came up with the idea to ‘play’ church, I remember being confused by this:
“What do you mean ‘play’ church – like the way we play house?”
And we did. We really did. My grandfather made a cup out of aluminium foil as my brothers tore pieces of bread, and then, he managed to make a foil bowl for them to put the bread into. Whilst my sister and I helped my grandmother set up their old wooden dining chairs in rows and eventually we asked everyone enthusiastically to take their seats. Mass had begun.
My sister stood up at the front of their lounge room and read prayers from the prayer book, my little brothers gave my grandfather the torn up pieces of bread and handed over the foil cup (that was filled with prune juice) to him. I had the very important role of being in charge of the tape recorder – I had two jobs: to press play and the stop button.
This went on for a little while – over the weeks my sister began to read quite eloquently, my brothers stopped eating the pieces of bread as snacks during the “mass” and I was getting pretty good at playing the church music. It wasn’t until one late afternoon, where my parents picked us up after another exhausting day of work that my sister announced she was going to be a priest.
Needless to say, this didn’t go down too well with my parents. They asked where this dream has come from and I blurted out (proudly) that we invented a new game. My sister was only ten at the time so I don’t think anyone took her seriously. But we never played church again.
From then on, and for the rest of our childhood years were spent playing football in the backyard with that empty coke bottle, climbing fences and taking bruised fruits from the neighbours’ backyards – chasing each other around our grandmother’s lemon trees.