Last Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of my father’s death.
On Wednesday my book, The Summertime of Our Dreams, will be launched, the coincidental timing making the event even more emotional for me and my siblings.
The book’s title comes from my father’s eulogy. How my oldest brother described his memory of the childhood our parents provided.
“It felt like one long, golden summer,” he said, “the summertime of our dreams.”
The book has taken time to happen, as life does. It’s been a decade since I started writing it – off and on, much more off than on – with thoughts coalescing for untold years before that.
That has been a good thing, a necessary thing, allowing the book to evolve and grow with our times beyond the initial intent of paying homage to country and acknowledging the gifts and opportunities my parents worked so hard to give their children.
(There is no force on earth more powerful than the desire of a mother to give her children a better chance in life than she had.)
The Summertime of Our Dreams grew as it absorbed and was built around a year-long conversation with a dying friend who wanted to help other people deal with mortality, to assure them that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That much of what consumes our lives can be let go.
And other stuff happened – cancer and COVID and history and memory – the hilarity and frailties of age and what sort of legacy we are providing for the children and grandchildren that are our legacy.
Fatherhood, mateship and mortality – but I’m assured it’s not as bad as that might sound, particularly if you can feel this land and enjoy driving through it.
Along the drive to this Wednesday’s launch, I’ve also learned a bit about having a book published, from the passion book people have for their profession to how scruffy your signature is in danger of becoming as you sign a pile of 200 copies and how bloody hard it is to record the audio book version of something that was often very personal and emotional to write, to keep your act together.
The last paragraphs written – inserted during the proofing stage – came from an incident in the surf earlier this year, recorded that day when I came home from the beach:
A morning in the Sunshine Beach surf, a man and his daughter swimming near me out where waves of not inconsequential size were breaking. The girl quite young, but a little water nymph. Locals.
The girl talking away about treading water and swimming and how big the waves were, the dad calling when to dive under or ride over them before they curled. A slight note of urgency in his voice – just to be sure the call was heeded – as a bigger set looms, calling the dive a little early, to dive deep so a small body might not be plucked up and rolled and dumped by the ocean’s endless power rising, crashing.
The girl comfortable with it all, confident with her dad. She surfaces, picking up her chatter where she left off, says something about getting out of breath sometimes.
‘Maybe that’s because you’re always talking,’ says her father with a gentle smile. She ignores him and talks on.
I’d like to tell him to lock in this memory, these moments with his little girl diving under breakers in bright sunshine, the light shining through the advancing green walls; to photograph her smile in his mind, to never forget this perfect morning together whatever else happens in their lives, uncomplicated minutes forever happy in trust and love.
I don’t. It would be presumptuous, might be creepy, some old bloke saying stuff like that. Entirely hypothetical anyway – I wouldn’t be able to get those words out, just the thought threatening to tear me up. Dive down and further away from them, silently wish them well and know their magic will be lost in time, too. Tears under the ocean. Saudade.
I’m told the author is expected to read a little of the book at the launch on Wednesday. I will have to choose my paragraphs carefully.
The Summertime of Our Dreams by Michael Pascoe is published by Ultimo Press and available in bookstores and online from August 3.