As kids, our family loved the Big Pineapple. We loved going there ourselves, and we took just about every single visitor there as well. Our photo albums are peppered with now-faded shots of various clan members. Complete with big sunglasses and perms. Everything about our trips there signalled excitement, visitors, and happy tension. Childhood’s salad days before we could see past the fibreglass and merchandising.
When I try to think about what it was exactly that we were drawn to, I’m left somewhat empty-handed. I remember the old advertisements on TV that featured ridiculously tall parfaits (that I never had) and the Macadamia Nut Train.
On a recent trip to Queensland, we stopped by the Big Pineapple for old times’ sake. To see it as it is today, and scotch the rumours that we’d all heard that it had been taken away.
It was there. The photo for this post was taken there in September 2014. Surrounding it were grassy, cracked car-parks, rundown novelty stalls, and overgrown pineapple patches. There was an odd little zoo further down the block. Everything felt a little defeated and sad.
We left thinking we didn’t need to go back to the Big Pineapple any more.
My six-year-old daughter has just started keyboard lessons during her Grade 1 year. She’s had about a month of lessons. We have a shiny new keyboard in the study.
And there I am, nagging her to practise. To hold her hands just so. To warm up and strengthen her tiny fingers by doing some simple scales.
I am my parents.
Except that my parents retained their optimism about my erratic and negligent piano playing ways for about a decade. They invested in private lessons, theory + practical. My sister and I sat the AMEB exams. I managed to scrape my way to Grade 5 piano + music theory. My sis made it all the way to Grade 8; she was good, and had passion for the instrument and music.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that I learned the piano, know how to read music, and can appreciate the labour and diligence required to become a good player of any instrument. Education about music and the physicality of playing music have added dimensions to my experience and my life, but I was never great at it (nowhere near enough practice or passion).
One of my clearest memories about piano lessons was sitting with my very nice teacher at the piano in the cultivated surrounds of her Kenmore home.
Again, I hadn’t done much practice. She was trying to have a serious talk with me about whether I should continue with piano because I obviously wasn’t engaging with the music or instrument. There’s no point being forced to do music, she told me, and think of how much my parents were spending on sending me to lessons that were not being developed further at home with regular practice.
I remember blinking away tears. The easiest way to bend me to your will is to invoke guilt about parental sacrifice and hopes. I have loads of that guilt at the ready on those fronts, as many of those who come from migrant backgrounds do.