the past is another country

Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 04:29:34 (GMT)

It's the beginning of time, sometime in the mid to late 60s, early Autumn in Melbourne Australia. It is Moomba, a parade of floats and marching bands and drum majorettes and clowns. A Melbourne tradition. It is a hot day and, like previous Moombas, I have thrown up. A family tradition.

But I am feeling better now. My father takes me back out to see the parade, which remarkably is still going. My brothers are with my mother somewhere. My long hair is probably tied into two pigtails. I'd be wearing a pretty dress, I guess, with perhaps a cardigan, ankle socks and black patent shoes. I am definitely wearing a hat, with a ribbon hanging down the back and a brim failing in its duty to keep the sun off my head. An image of chubby legged innocence.

My father holds me at his shoulder, as we wait in the shade for the rest of the family. We are back from the road, but my vantage point gives me a good view of the parade. I watch the floats go by.

Then I see them. My favourites. I wave, furiously. Maybe I take my hat off and wave with that. One of them sees me, and nudges the other. They are both smiling and waving. At me. "We'll have to tell the boys about this," says my father.

A quintessence of childhood, preserved in amber. Last night I watched that golden ball of memories - of me - slip from my hands and tumble slowly towards the ground. It hasn't quite struck yet, but when it does, it will disintegrate. For my favourites were Zig and Zag the icecream clowns, and last night l was told that they won't be at Moomba this year, because Zag has a conviction for sexually molesting a child, his granddaughter. Her pain I cannot imagine, but even my sense of loss is palpable.

[Postscript: I have since found out it was Zig, not Zag, and they weren't only appearing at Moomba, they were to be the last Moomba Monarchs, after something like 40 years]

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© 1999-2007 Joan McGalliard. Last changed Wednesday, 16 October 2002