An entry in the Rivers Prize for
Writing on Peace & Harmony
THE sun is shining now and all I want to do is indulge in my sweet childhood memories.
The world outside my parent’s garden in 6 Mile made no sense to me back then. I was too busy unraveling the mysteries that awaited my curious mind.
When I was not building my cubby house in the garden or constructing a tree house I was playing a game of marble or backyard cricket with my friends.
In the afternoon we would get excited as everyone including the older boys joined in the fun.
Unwrapping caterpillars coiled up in banana leaves was my favourite activity in my parent’s garden. I could spend the whole day looking for them and often left behind a mess that drew disgust and a stern warning from my parents.
After an eventful day I would climb our mango tree to look for the juicy fruit that abounded within the canopy of leaves. Biting into this delicacy with eyes half shut and head nodding with approval, I got lost in its mesmerising taste.
From my mango tree looking out to the world beyond, I dreamed of a Pacific paradise. How I longed to lie and swing back and forth in a hammock under coconut trees looking towards the endless horizon with the sun slowly disappearing behind it.
Even now when I look to the horizon I remember those childhood moments as among the best times of my life.
On other occasions I was in some different tree pretending to fly an aeroplane or helicopter. No fear of heights or limitation to climb to the top to reach my dream.
I often asked myself how a boy from a humble origin could ever get to fulfill a dream of flying resulting from regular visits with my parents to the old Jackson’s Airport and lying on the lawn under the old DC3 that was Captain Black’s spirit and seeing planes flying in and out at will.
Yet look at me now. So different from yesterday, more cautious of flying and eager to quickly get on and off the plane. The closest I got to being an aviator was a short stint I had with Air Niugini stationed on the fourth floor of ANG Haus in Port Moresby.
My life as a child was eventful and adventurous. There was no fear of death and no anxiety about what tomorrow may bring. To a child tomorrow is another new chapter in a never ending story.
Years went by and I realised I was a caterpillar hidden from the world. When the time was right I would crawl out of my childhood to face the reality of adulthood. A reality that lay hidden behind the loving eyes and caring smiles of my parents.
A child’s best friend is the sight of his parents and the sound of other kids.
In those peaceful years, the air around me was filled with the promising aroma of the golden 1990s.
A juke box on full blast playing Chicago or Little River Band. At lunch hour it was Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers on the radio. In between Roy Orbison, the Beatles, John Farnham and John Travolta soothed my mind.
Elvis, The King, was always a favourite and the announcer behind the mic seemed to like him too. Afternoons were about The Flintstones and Home & Away and in the evening it was Sale of the Century and the Aussie soap, Neighbours.
On the silver screen, America flexed its muscles with Good Morning Vietnam, Delta Force, Rocky Balboa, Rambo, Superman and Terminator.
Yet most families struggled to buy a TV set. I can remember the first that my father bought after much bickering. It was a 14 inch screen from Courts. Back then TV sets were so expensive to buy, the purchase was a big deal to neighbours and community. To add a VHS video cassette signalled real wealth.
For a kid like me Walt Disney was a genius and I loved his legendary creations Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. Comics were a rarity although I adored superheroes and often imagined I had special powers to fly or lift things.
When we watched a movie about a comic character we talked about it for days and even months. But there were never enough. It seemed Hollywood was too busy indulging in action and drama and forgot about the buying power of kids. How times changed. Today teens rule the world and movies about comic characters are big box office hits.
On the weekend it was all reggae with UB40 and Lucky Dube on repeat.On Saturday an odyssey to the wild west with Bonanza. Sunday was usually church and home. However, when my old man developed a passion for rugby league, we often avoided church to watch matches at the PRL gound.
I was my father’s biggest fan. Still am. I always impressed with his knowledge and insights of the game. For instance, when the Kumuls rubbed shoulders with the mighty Kangaroos, he would tell me before the game that we were going to get whacked with a cricket score.
Even when some of us thought that the game was in the balance he just laughed it off by saying it was early in the match and that the second half would portray a different story. Unfortunately he was always right.
He could also tell when trouble is brewing. There was once a game between Mendi Muruks and Port Moresby Vipers when he left at half time, sensing trouble. Me being young and adventurous decided to stick around.
A few minutes before the final hooter all hell broke loose after the Muruks and Vipers players exchanged punches and were joined by an invading crowds of supporters, mostly Muruks supporters.
In fear of their lives, the Vipers’ players fled in the direction of the grandstand with their only refuge being the tunnel leading to the dressing room. Some suffered concussion while others had cuts on their faces and heads.
One minute I was among the crowd that swamped the field and the next minute I found myself running for cover to avoid the tear gas dispersed by police. This was one of many similar incidents I was involved in.
But until this day, PRL holds a special place in my heart. Not because of the hostility and aggression I witnessed but because I spent a great deal of my time with my father. Today, whenever I enter the oval I re-live those wonderful memories.
The State of Origin contests of that era were some of the best ever. ET, Paul Harrigan, Alfie Langer, Martin Bella, Matt Sing, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga and Freddy Fittler were some of the best players to have worn a rugby league jumper.
Each time when it rained our 14 inch telly weaved its magic, turning our house into Sesame Street where I met Uncle Sam. Americanism was so radiant back then.
The US is no longer a land of so many opportunities but a land riddled with fear of terrorism and conflict as ideologies and races collide.
To me Sesame Street was a symbol of the good things that America stood for regardless of whether you were Kermit, Big Bird, Elmo or the Cookie Monster.
Now America is battling itself while on the world stage it struggles to maintain global leadership.
The 1980s and 1990s was an era defined by respect for culture and peace unlike today when the culture is synthetic.
While we search for our own peace we should be looking for that peace that is for all to enjoy.
I believe my journey from 6 Mile has got me somewhere.
But where to from here?