We’re in beautiful Byron Bay. We were here the same time last year: same place, same scene, same glorious weather and long white beaches, only this year everything is tinged with the sadness of Abi’s absence.
I’m not all together sure if the memories of being here with her make it better or worse. Better I think. Having new experiences that she hasn’t been part of feels wrong, slightly unfaithful somehow.
I remember the tiny triangles of her royal blue bikini top; that perfect photo taken of her walking along the beach, wrapped in a towel; her perpetually messy hair, windswept and suddenly streaked lighter in places.
Her and Kate’s frequent shopping expeditions, scouring the shops for items they imagined they could convince us to buy, running home begging for money or dragging Trevor off to apply maximum in-store pressure on a defenceless dad. I remember squeals of delight at the sound of the squeaking sand, hilariously bad tennis played late afternoon, early morning treats from Suffolk Bakery, and the constant hankering for more ice-cream during any downtime moment. Her reluctant surfing, coaxing her through swimming lengths in the chilly outdoor pool, her painfully labored and stop-start mountain biking progress, and her utter joy at racing Kate to find the hidden coin at the bottom of the pool. Never to be forgotten, her and Kate’s screaming mad horizontal Skycoaster 50 metre bungy plunge at Wet n’ Wild, and their brothers’ instinctive running to their rescue.
In a place where blonde girls in bikinis are standard issue, it is hard not to miss our beautiful girl. Blonde, blue eyes, brown skin, impossible skinny chicken legs: radiant smile, squealing and giggles, utter perfection. You were born for Byron Abigail Hone. Hard not to shout “we had one too” at unsuspecting passing parents. Fortunately, dear friends surround us. They never forget how profound and omnipresent our grief is, understanding that, while we may laugh, her absence follows us everywhere. Girls walking by our apartment at night singing Titanium? The same towel on the beach, this time wrapped around my shoulders? First lap of the pool without her by my side? The windows of Witchery crying out for abisdots? Between them they know all the triggers.
Working my way through her favourite reads, I’m struck by a line from Allegiant: “Take a person’s memories and you change who they are”. Recently, re-reading Orwell’s 1984 also highlighted the quintessential contribution of memories to our self-identity. We are our memories. They are so precious. For me, as a mother, holidays have always been partially about making memories for our three children and us. Those golden moments you hope they will look back on to rekindle feelings of unbridled happiness in their care-free childhood: long halcyon days at the beach, surrounded by friends, Frisbee and rugby at the water’s edge, boogie boards and body surfing, cricket with plastic bats, sand-infused rolls, juicy water melon, ice-creams for all. As Adele wrote, and Abi so loved to sing, our children were fortunate enough to be “born and raised in a summer haze”.
When I think of holiday memories I’m reminded of Fred Bryant’s work on the important role savouring plays in our happiness. His research introduced me to the opportunity to get more bang for your holiday buck by consciously appreciating them across three different timeframes: first, we get to anticipate the experience during the planning stage (the enjoyment and thrill of the where shall we go, what we will do, where we will stay moments); next, there’s the pleasure of the holiday experience itself (when the trick is to be truly present, soaking it all in, pinching yourself to remember to savour the moments, taking as many mental photographs as digital ones); and, finally, there’s the reminiscing, lingering over the memories, photos, stories, and experiences long after you’ve put the suitcases away. Intentionally considering the experience these three ways – anticipating, being present, reminiscing - allows one holiday to boost our happiness three times over.
Some people are particularly good at savouring. Yesterday playing tennis Brigit remarked how she wanted to “freeze the moment” of being with three great mates, whom she no longer lives near. She said this out loud, gazing around her, soaking it all up, and made sure she marked the moment with a photo after the game.
Abi also had her own psychological mechanism sorted for appreciating favourite moments, often saying “now” out loud to prompt a mental photograph of happy times. Even through our grief, and the tears that have flowed this holiday, there have also been many “now” moments. Many Abi would have appreciated and stashed away for future recall. Being together with “all the families” (her term) was her very favourite thing. Will all the families be there mum, she would ask, which of the families are coming today? I’m glad to know we did so much with all the families that have contributed to the summer haze of our children’s youth. Glad that I appreciated just how special they were at the time, and now eternally grateful for the memories that will endure long after she has gone. Your families loved you Triple A.
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