He dreamed of their camping trips to Pearly Heads when he was five and six. Oh, how he missed those days. Days full of sunshine, glistening upon the clear waters of the river, of burying Livy in the sand all the way up to her neck, and icy poles melting all over their hands, so that they were sticky for the rest of the afternoon.
More than anything, he missed the campfire. He longed to be back there, curling up into his Mother’s lap, letting the gentle rumble of her belly lull him to sleep. The pop of the fire would suddenly wake him. He’d sit up, rub his eyes and listen to his Father’s silly stories. Livy would fall off her chair in fits of laughter and they’d all pile on top of her, tickling her until she had no tears of joy left to cry. Then Dad would lift Billy up, high into the air, swooshing him round and round, making rocket noises with his mouth. The streaking stars above would blend into a whirlpool of silver light. Nothing could ever stop Billy Baker, rocket man, safe in the hands of his Daddy. Mr Baker was fit and strong back then. No drinking or smoking. He smiled more too. And he always tucked Billy into bed first, whispering his sweet heart into Billy’s hopeful ears.
It’s during this first flashback that we learn of Billy’s cherished past. He holds onto these precious memories, as they are filled with images of a loving family unit. The imagery offers both longing and hope for Billy. A longing to be back in the past. And a hope for a loving family again in the future. As readers, we can also draw hope from these moments, as we relate to Billy’s pursuit of acceptance.
The memories are drawn from my own recollections of childhood camping trips to Currarong – a sleepy town on the south coast of New South Wales, about an hours drive south of my home town Gerringong. The power of positive emotions attached to childhood memories can spur us on through life, as we search for similar family connections with those special people we relate to in adulthood (friends, partners and so on). The need for true, vulnerable and lasting relationships is more acute than ever before, in a society that places greater value on personal success and fulfillment. Those who attempt to fill this basic need with anything other than social connection, like Billy’s pursuit of fame, spiral down into a path of self-destruction.
Such universal truths are what make us human. It’s a truth that Billy, along with many other young people today, must to re-discover.