We spent a few nights at my parents this week - the rain kept us mainly inside - I haven't liked to take Littlest outside too much, even bundled up, when she has been so very sick recently, although I will soon take the (very layered) leap.
My parents' garden is very large, long and narrow and very green. Seeing the kids playing in it I remember when my family first arrived from the inner-suburbs and it was a long strip of waist high, sun-browned grass and blackberries, with one sprawling fig-tree, one giant pine tree and a scattering of cherry plum trees.
The grass has been replaced by a mass of tangled, verdant plants. The pine tree is gone, but the fig tree remains, massive and sprawling, and the place of many pirate battles (its branches bounced in a very satisfactory way when we jumped on them) is still there. I suspect its two resident bats - Chaos and Darkness, still live close by.
Every year my dad has given my mum fruit trees for birthdays and Christmas, and it is impossible to wander down without grazing - at the moment lemons and mandarines, but there are apple trees, olive trees, blueberries, grape vines, peaches and strawberries as well as the cherry-plums.
As a kid I spent hours reading and writing up in the cherry-plum trees, where mum had put pallets as tree houses and hammered up ladders.
There was a rope hanging from one of the pine trees branches and we used to gather up the rope, climb on top of the rackety tin chicken-coop and jump off, swinging hysterical with laughter while our dog (a crotchety border collie) snapped at our heels, trying to round us up.
There's a tunnel going up the side of the slope of the gully, and as kids we were just able to wiggle through it - it was only a few feet long, but it twisted up through the clay slope and every time we went through it we'd be afraid we'd never be able to get out. Looking at it now - both ends grown over, and remembering back to moments stuck in clay, convinced I couldn't inch my way any further, or retreat back the way I'd come, completely enclosed, I think we were crazy to even attempt it. And yet we did, again and again.
When we first arrived in the house we didn't even know the gully existed - it was so full of blackberries. It took us five years to get rid of all the berries - first slashing and then digging up the roots. I was exceptionally dedicated to this, attacking the thorns that towered over us with vigour as I was promised ducklings as soon as the blackberries were cleared. I encouraged, bossed and bribed my younger brothers as we cut and slashed the blackberries away, bitter at their violent ways, always trying to twine around us, and coming back just when we thought we had them all.
Being back in the garden, watching my own kids play in it, brings nostalgia creeping. I wonder how they'll remember the gardens of their childhood. They're approaching the age my brothers and I were when we first moved in, and the thought both perplexes and pleases me.
Which gardens will be the one that will shape their ideas of 'outside', of play, of green and living things?