Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing... about in boats — or with boats. In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
We almost talked ourselves out of doing this on Saturday. It was expensive, not educational, and kind of silly to think of taking a punt ride around the ornamental lake at the Royal Botanic Gardens. After all, hadn't we visited the gardens to see the flowering Titan Arum, not mess about in boats?
I'm afraid Daddy's logic was airtight, and we all agreed. It looked fun, but it was unnecessary.
And then suddenly there we were, waiting at the dock to hop in.
Can you see how wonderful it was? As we lay back on the plush pink cushions, white parasols shielding us from the fierce heat of the sun, and calmly meandered around the islands, we looked at each other and smiled. We had definitely made the right decision. This was going to become part of our family's collected memory. It was sublimely, peacefully perfect.
We chatted with the punter and admired his technique with the pole. We laughed at his stories. Together we identified moorhens, swanphens and coots, laughed at a funny Pacific Black duck, who followed our punt, admired a couple of aptly named Eastern long-necked turtles, discussed the dangers of the recent blue-green algal bloom, the use of artificial islands as a water filtration system, searched for elusive bell birds in the trees - so easy to identify; so very hard to spot, and lots of other stuff, but mostly we just relaxed and enjoyed the moment.
Making memories, for us, is intentional. There are lots of bits of Jemimah's childhood that are far from perfect, and I can't do much about those, but I can help create good times. They don't always cost money, either. A mummy-daughter night with popcorn and a movie. A walk hand-in-hand through the bush. A green St Pat's meal. A picnic at the lake.
When she is grown, it is entirely possible that Jemimah will look back at her childhood and see parents who worked too hard, and a house damaged by floods, but somehow I don't think so. I hope she'll see the magic parts. The ballet, the picnics, the holidays, the food, the books, the jigsaws, the happiness. I pray that she will.
And maybe she will remember the special afternoon we spent together punting on the ornamental lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens in the middle of the Melbourne city, and how happy we all were. I think I'll remember it as well.