January was hot and DRY, normal.
The family packed last-minute things in the esky and headed for ‘The Coast’, normal.
We’d done much the same for almost 20 years.
Across town, similar preparations were being made in another household. We shared expensive Holiday Season rental on the coast house.
When we started this ritual we only needed two cars.
As both families grew with each child more and more ‘stuff’ had to be transported to the coast, normal.
Transport arrangements had also evolved. More people meant more cars, with each car’s occupants varying. This year my 19 year old, 6’4″ (193cm) son was riding shotgun in the other father’s car (better leg room) with the other couple’s two younger, smaller children.
The two women were travelling together in a second car, supposedly to sort out food arrangements, but more likely to natter.
My 16 year old daughter and I shared our family car; we appreciate similar music.
Off we set with the usual understanding of meeting half-way there to buy our favourite large “B” shaped loaf (we called it bum-bread because of the old-fashioned shape) and home-made berry jam at the town’s excellent bakery, where we traditionally shared their excellent pies and coffee.
Purchases purchased, appetites appeased, we continued our trip. Normal.
Arriving first at the coast house, I had barely got out to stretch when my son and the other father pulled up. Oddly, my son excitedly ran over to me. “Dad, we heard reports on the radio that fires are predicted to impact our suburb. Can I go back and try to save my car?”.
This was the first I’d heard about the danger, my radio had ‘lost’ our local ABC station around the same area as the midway bakery. The radio in the car in which my son was travelling was newer and more powerful. He was worried for the safety of his car, marooned in the driveway of our house.
Recalling how treasured my first car had been I agreed to lend him the family car, adding “just be Careful”, he having only recently gained his full licence after the dreaded “P’s”
We went inside and waited.
What had started out as a normal two week coastal holiday with friends was about to become the most abnormal six months of our lives, once our son reported the results of his frantic dash home, mainly to try and save his car, but also to see what else he could do.
(to be continued…)