The idea was to get out of the house and use up some energy. There is a finite amount of time a ten-year-old and a fourteen-year-old can stay indoors.
At the end of our street there is a bush path that leads through The Crown of Newport Reserve. My boyfriend and I have never been there. Today we took the kids for a bush walk.
It all started simply enough – a dirt path with steps carved into the hill. Slicing through the centre of the gully was a creek, almost dried up from the lack of rain. We followed the path for about ten minutes.
Someone, my boyfriend probably, said, ‘Let’s explore.’
Two of us agreed. The third, the ten-year-old wasn’t convinced. ‘We have to stay on the path,’ she said. ‘It’s the rules.’
But we took no notice. We left the path and crawled up over rocks, ducked under palm fronds and scaled fallen tree branches. We headed up the hill, following the path of the creek, trusting we would find the edge of the reserve.
Eventually we found ourselves at the top, in the back yard of a pole house. Hoping no one would notice us, we snuck around the side of the house, through the front garden and on to the road.
We looked around. Somewhere, surely, was the end of the steps we had abandoned. We couldn’t see a way back down. We were lost.
We walked through the suburban streets looking for a way back home. Eventually, we reached the end of a cul-de-sac where an elderly Asian man was walking his poodle.
‘Can we get back to Newport from here?’ asked my boyfriend.
‘You can come through my house,’ said the man with the dog. ‘The pathway through the reserve is on the other side.’
We walked past his rock pool full of koi and his beautiful swimming pool. ‘On New Year’s Eve,’ he said, ‘you can see seven different fireworks.’
‘Can you adopt me?’ I asked. He chuckled shyly.
We took the steps down to the road. ‘I’m going to Latvia next week,’ he said. ‘I’m representing Australia in a choral competition.’
We found the path with the steps and headed back home. ‘I was frightened,’ said Miss Ten when we arrived. ‘But it was fun. The man’s dog was nice.’
‘Sometimes,’ said my boyfriend, ‘we have the best time when we do things we’re scared of.’
‘Mmm,’ she said, ‘You’re probably right.’