Monday, April 22, 2013

History


A couple of years ago I was in Melbourne with my parents. We had been in Perth to visit my brother, and got stranded in Melbourne where some volcano on the other side of the world exploded, halting air travel for several days. My sister was living there at the time so it wasn't the worst disaster that ever happened, but it did somewhat impact on my ability to work.

Being the diligent man I am, I decided to buy a laptop to enable me to do some work. Dad was already working having had the foresight to bring his laptop with him, so mum and I went out shopping. For lunch, we went to an old pancake parlour that goes by the informative name of The Pancake Parlour which has been around since the 1960s. While we were waiting for our pancakes to arrive, mum got a Russian blintz and I got something with fruit and ice cream, she told me about how all her friends had worked there while she was in high school, how they'd meet up there before going out, and how she'd always liked the blintz.

I have seen the occasional photo of my parents as young people but there's the barrier of the physical medium, the aged film and washed out colour that somehow prevents it from seeming real (perhaps this is not a problem for those living in an instagram world, for whom 70s effects *are* real). You can look at it and on some level dismiss it as some people a long time ago. It's not that it's easy to forget your parents used to be teenagers, it's more that it's hard to believe it in the first place. Sitting in that restaurant, more or less unchanged since it was built, where my mum had sat forty years earlier hanging out with her friends after a shift was somehow completely different. It wasn't a captured image of another place but a physical location merely shifted in time.

It also made me realise how differently segmented my parents' memories are to my own. Both of them have lived different phases of their lives in different cities while I have lived in Hobart since I was two. They look back on Melbourne or Moree and associate a place with a time in their life. I walk around the streets of Hobart and remember events from when I was ten, eighteen, thirty. I buy books from students working part time in the same bookshop where twelve year old me was too nervous to ask the scary looking guy behind the counter for help. I drank too much at a company Christmas party and ranted at my boss just across the road from the place I once dropped an ice cream when I was a kid and almost cried.

It doesn't seem strange to have this overlapping history everywhere, I've never known it to be any other way after all, but it does sometimes feel tangled up, like it might be nice sometimes to have a little geographic separation to go with the temporal.

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