Though Tim Winton’s parents weren’t wealthy, and though he experienced periods of distress throughout his childhood, he nevertheless sees those early years as a time of paradise furnished by the wide-open space of the ocean, the endless potential of the shoreline, and the seemingly infinite bounty of the sea. His love for the rugged openness of Western Australia becomes even clearer when he spends a few months on the grounds of Leap Castle in Ireland and feels suffocated by the weight of history and the damp, dark, closed-in landscape; when, one morning, he wakes with the sun on his face and thinks of home. For Winton, the idea of home seems to be endlessly bright and possible. When he faces doubts about the future of his country and its natural environment, he almost always stumbles back to a place of hope that stems from his gratitude for his childhood, the connection he has to his home, and his hope that his children and grandchildren will have similarly fond memories of childhood. In other words, he wishes not to preserve his happy, free childhood as a relic, but for it live on in the experiences of his children and grandchildren. Winton’s attitude suggests that nostalgia for the beautiful parts of childhood, home, and the past contributes to a desire to protect those precious things for generations to come.
Childhood and Home ThemeTracker
Childhood and Home Quotes in The Boy Behind the Curtain
Without words I was dangerously powerless. The gun served as a default dialect, a jerry-built lingo that may have been less sophisticated than a laundry list, but it came with ready-made scripts that had been swilling about in the back of my mind since infancy. These were storylines as familiar as the object itself. But the lexicon of the gun is narrow and inhuman. Despite its allure it was insufficient to my needs.
Sometime during that long convalescence I came upon the helmet Dad had been wearing when he was hit. Made of laminated cork, it was cumbersome, and it felt unstable in my hands. The crazed pattern of cracks dulling its whiteness gave it an unnerving broken-eggshell texture. For a long time—for years, I think—I continued to seek it out, to turn it over in my hands, to sniff the Brylcreem interior, and try to imagine the sudden moment, the awful impact, and the faceless stranger behind all this damage.
Churchgoing was my introduction to conscious living. Nowhere else was I exposed to the kind of self-examination and reflective discipline that the faith of my childhood required. I’d be surprised if anyone at my boyhood church had read even a page of Tolstoy, but it seems to me now that the question that ate at him so late in his life was the central issue for us, too. What then must we do?
It wasn’t just a health facility. At times it was more like a furnace or a power plant. In summer the air around it was thick with screams and sirens and the drone of cooling towers, and in winter its beige mass blocked out the sun. It was a constant, implacable presence.
It seemed to me at the time that this movement might have been named after the wrong colour, that nothing was as likely to stir the imagination of Australians so much as the sea. With Save Ningaloo we stumbled onto the only sacred site in the mind of mainstream Australia—the beach. Somehow the childhood memory of clean seas and the workaday longing for respite in salty air and the dream of retiring to a still-living coast resonate in the suburbs like nothing else.
I’m conscious that everything I see from here is named and storied, not just the wells and wishing trees and cryptic dirt mounds, but every hedge, it seems, every wood and boreen. All of it heavy with a past that’s palpable and rich, moving in its way, even if it doesn’t quite mean anything to me personally.
A few days ago I woke with a light shining in my face. I thought I’d fallen asleep reading and left the bedside light on. But no, it was the sun shining in the window, warm and strong and clean for the first time since we arrived. Spring had come, and it made me think of home.
Their faces and voices were completely familiar. They smelt like the people of my boyhood—fags, sugar and the beefy whiff of free-range armpit—but despite the cheerful, noncommittal conversations we had on our slow ascents in the lift, I felt a distance that took many months to come to terms with. Like the expatriate whose view of home is largely antique, I was a class traveller who’d become a stranger to his own.
The good old days may be long gone, yet here we are, as ever, launching a boat from the beach in a quiet bay under cloudless skies, bobbing on clean water. In an hour we’ll have enough sweet-tasting fish to feed two households.