It is the winter school holidays and the visitors are regular despite the icy attitude outside.
I like it when grandparents bring their grandchildren in and try to direct the reading choices. Grandchildren are always polite. But also good at directing Pop away from Biggles and onward to the Treehouse books, especially the 117 Storey Treehouse which is newest.
But I don’t have that Treehouse book. Grandchildren are always polite and encouraging, they say, don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s ok, because we like Minecraft Zombie, too.
This time, they have a pram (with nobody in it), too large to get close to the shelves, so they leave it next to me. It holds loaves of bread, a cactus in a pot, a shoe box, a basketball, a bag of carrots and a walking stick, probably Pop’s.
All goes well until it’s time to leave. The four of them are milling and churning, trying to get out and trying to get the money and Nan is mad with Pop because he keeps arguing about everything and now he says, but I don’t think we need to get any tickets today, and Nan turns the pram sharply, Pop is backed up into the biographies (still arguing)…
But the granddaughters are serene. They each have a book. They are eight and ten years old and experienced in school holidays. One holds the door wide and one angles the pram broadside, out of the door and into the beautiful blue, still holding their books, and one girl leaning forward to keep the pram moving (it’s as big as she is) and still talking and talking to each other. Behind goes Nan and Pop, still arguing and stopping and arguing and Pop trying to work out where the pram has gone.
The jumping pillow is where all the kids in the camping park go to jump. They park their bikes there and hang up helmets, shoes and adult advice. And the parents stand watching and looking and remembering. The kids are like thistles or bits of foam or something, weightless, agile, arms and legs all over the place and always six feet in the air without even trying. When they land they bounce again, at least as high as the moon. When one kid bumps another kid they always say “sorry.”
Gravity lets them stay on their toes. Adults who try it out, however, thud heavily downwards and then head off disappointed for another beer and a new hip.
One kid ran from one end to the other in big moon strides. He was about 8 and master of gravity. He ran into Noah and Max, my grandsons, and said, sorry, with an encouraging face. This is because my grandsons are only two and even a tiny blow to that jumping pillow will refer them sideways, backwards or skywards. Their heads and necks bend like reeds and their hearts go with their bones. It is as though being only two means that the moving surface of anything will still send you in the richest and most rewarding direction.
Warm and quiet and raining here. A child, here with her parents looks at the sheep on the front of a nativity story book and says “lizard”.
There is a Christmas tree in a trailer parked right outside the shop and the little tree is held under yellow straps and is glistening with rain. Next to it is a box of tools and a grey water bottle and some metal bars wrapped in a striped towel.
A child presses her nose against the window and stares fiercely at the wooden cat.
A mother, passing by with her family, tells her two small sons that they don’t need books. The smallest boy sets his bottle of coke carefully on the edge of the kerb while waiting to cross safely. He holds on to the trailer with the Christmas tree and when he looks over at the tree he laughs. He says there is rain on the tree eyelashes. When they can finally walk, he forgets his drink and leaves it balanced there on the edge of the footpath, with rain on its eyelashes.
A young tradesman leaves his ute engine running while he jogs carefully around to the bakery and an old man, passing with a bottle of milk, taps the window, trying to find the driver. Then he turns and says to the street, “that’s careless!”
Three boys stand at the door and knock before coming in. The smallest one tells me he came here before and now he is back. He is holding a handful of coins – he asks me if I have any fly spray, but I don’t – I tell them where to go and they say love your shop by the way and they all bump out, leaving fine handprints on the door and lifesavers wrappers on the floor.
An old lady has come in for Christmas presents and tells me that when she taught high school, she rebuked any child who had not written in their text books. She said: make it yours, make the play yours, make the ideas yours. Why are you saving that book you silly child? I want to see it written all over, it is your notes the next person will want. She asked to see any copies of Shakes that I had and she bought four of them for her grandchildren, all of them written through with the furious pencil of previous students, and she was delighted. She bought a copy of Denslow’s Night before Christmas even though he had been a drunken old fool. Then she said she was going back to the bakery for a cup of tea, wasn’t the rain lovely, the lovely, lovely rain.
At the end of the day I have made $29 and get for free a lifesavers wrapper, some handprints, eyelashes, carelessness, the lovely, lovely rain, directions to Shakespeare and a lizard. So an intensely rewarding day.