How my parents convinced me the world was ending

28 Dec

I grew up in the Blue Mountains, a place two hours from Sydney famous for bush fires. Our family home sits in a valley, surrounded by flamable things. When my parents bought it in the summer of 1977 a massive fire stormed across the ridgeline eventually singing our fence posts. It hasn’t burnt since but every summer it comes close. Childhood summers to me were a bright red sun, ash falling from the sky and ABC radio constantly on to tell us if we had to evacuate.

You might think that this was scary, but really it was just exciting, mainly because nothing made my mother happier than imminent doom. One year a column of black smoke covered half the sky and evacuation seemed likely. My mother had been packed for days. There were photos in boxes, clothes in bags and, as an alternative to a cat box, poor Missy in a pillow case. For my mother this was the best Christmas ever.

So, at the beginning of 1999 when rumours of the millennium bug started to circulate my mother listened with interest. What’s that, you say? Planes falling from the sky? Techno apocalypse, I hear? As someone who feared technology as a concept, the idea of the toaster being scheduled to revolt against its human masters and kill us all made perfect sense. It was time to prepare.

Room was made in a cupboard in the kitchen. This was filled with dried grain, pulses, spam and seeds. Aware that the vats of water stored under the house would only go so far, my father was sent into the bush to find the nearest spring. I was told that I couldn’t tell anyone at school about the preparations because, come January 1st they’d all be banging down the door for their share of grain. I’d seen Mad Max. I knew the score.

Dad, usually a skeptical man, must have been caught up in the festivity of it all because soon he was preparing for the end of the world with the best of them. Such was their enthusiasm that I was totally convinced that the world could end a cruel week before my 12th birthday. At Easter, I found myself in hospital with a penicillin reaction. The nurse kindly enquired about me starting high school the following year. I replied casually “yes, bad timing, isn’t it?” she asked why and I told her “because of Y2K. Hasn’t anyone told you?” Had I been her I would have called Community Services.

We surely weren’t the only ones caught up in the thrill of Y2K fever. There were long specials about it on the ABC. Plane tickets for New Years Eve were sold at bargain prices. The Prime Minister went on TV to reassure the nation. But you can never trust a politician.

Not long after Easter Dad told me that my cubby house would be converted into a hutch and that I’d get to breed bunnies. Being slightly dim I didn’t connect all the dots. Days later, when my parents confessed what the baby bunnies were for I became hysterical. I can only assume that at that point my parents looked from the distressed child to each other and wondered if they hadn’t got a bit carried away with all this apocalypse business.

I woke on the first morning of the new millennium to the smell of spam being fried. The kettle was singing happily and the toaster seemed content. The air was filled with relief, but also, just a little, disappointment.

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6 Responses to “How my parents convinced me the world was ending”

  1. Lindsay Westrup December 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Hahaha I will surely have this effect on my offspring someday

  2. The Wanderlust Gene April 15, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Terrific = pace, humour, voice … I enjoyed it very much.

    • fixitdearhenry April 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

      Why thank you! I’ll have to check out your blog.

      • The Wanderlust Gene April 15, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

        Please do. I’m just getting set up, and spend perhaps too much time trying to be get out there – my resolution for the week is to knuckle down and write something every day … it would be nice if I could achieve some of he ease which you have.

      • fixitdearhenry April 15, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

        Thanks, that’s very sweet. My approach is definitely quality over quantity. I think if I set any targets the writing would feel laboured (and also it wouldn’t be as fun!). Let me know how you find the post-a-day process.

      • The Wanderlust Gene April 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm #

        I will – feeling pressure already:) But, what I thought was, even if it’s just 500 words to start with, I’d like to develop the habit, discipline, of writing every day, or at least five days a week (does that count?).

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