On the fly with my two sons

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

THE ju­nior jet­set­ter seated across the aisle from me on the flight from Lon­don to Syd­ney looks to be about five years old and he is quite the lit­tle artist. Since take-off he has been draw­ing con­tent­edly, coloured pen­cils laid out neatly, an eraser in at­ten­dance. A cabin at­ten­dant pauses to ad­mire his pic­tures. ‘‘Oooh, is that a cater­pil­lar?’’ she asks. As par­ents every­where know, it is un­wise to pre­sume you know what a child is draw­ing. Chirpy ques­tions such as ‘‘Is that a pic­ture of Mummy?’’ are very likely to meet with a re­sponse of, say, ‘‘No, it is a re­frig­er­a­tor.’’ And so it is on this day in the clouds. ‘‘It is not a cat on a pil­low,’’ he tells her in the slightly ex­hausted tone of a young chap who fre­quently must deal with silly adults. ‘‘It is a wrig­gly worm.’’

‘‘Oooh, I don’t like wrig­gly worms,’’ the cabin at­ten­dant cries, with an ex­ag­ger­ated shiver. ‘‘Please don’t be scared,’’ he says. ‘‘It isn’t a real one.’’ I am telling this story be­cause it re­minds me so much of trav­el­ling with my two sons when they were young and given to a lot of draw­ing and many mo­ments of ex­as­per­a­tion with their mother.

Both boys seemed to be­come in­stantly more grownup when we trav­elled, bet­ter or­gan­ised than me, more ed­u­cated about where we were headed and what we were see­ing, thanks to their love of at­lases and the un­de­ni­able in­flu­ence of tele­vi­sion.

Donot for a minute think I could get away with telling them we were look­ing at a mere mon­key in the wilds of Asia. That would be a long-tailed macaque, ac­tu­ally. The dol­phin frol­ick­ing off the beaches of Kauai? It would prob­a­bly be a Pa­cific bot­tlenose or, hang on (one or other of the ju­nior Kuro­sawas reaches for his Boy Scouts binoc­u­lars), it’s too small. ‘‘Cool, Mum, it’s a spin­ner.’’

In Los An­ge­les, within min­utes of check­ing in to our ho­tel, they had worked out all the ca­ble TV sta­tions on an oth­er­wise un­fath­omable re­mote con­trol and had con­fi­dently pur­chased cans of Dr Pep­per (then un­ob­tain­able in Aus­tralia and so highly de­sir­able on hol­i­day) from a hall­way dis­pens­ing ma­chine the size of a truck and were seated com­fort­ably watch­ing col­lege bas­ket­ball. They had mys­te­ri­ously ac­quired rather good Amer­i­can ac­cents, too, like mi­nor Chicago mob­sters.

Sto­ries such as this be­come part of many a fam­ily’s folk­lore, which is why I wish I had writ­ten a fuller hol­i­day jour­nal, pre­served more of the boys’ draw­ings, kept the ticket stubs to Dis­ney­land and the logo coast­ers from those thrillingly dodgy Cal­i­for­nia din­ers.

I have many pho­tos, of course, but have to rely on an im­per­fect mem­ory for the smaller de­tails; theirs are still tack-sharp and they have for­got­ten none of their mother’s travel mishaps, from the morn­ing she set off from La­haina on the Hawai­ian is­land of Maui in a rental car and pro­ceeded to drive on the wrong side of the road (later park­ing on the kerb, for ex­tra ef­fect) to the Hong Kong lunch she tried to pay for with her Medi­care card.

I must ad­mit that it does ap­pear we were con­stantly draw­ing at­ten­tion to our­selves.

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