OPINION

Tracing the steps of our honeymoon days

Recently, I climbed a steep flight of stairs.

That's not a metaphor for anything, the stairs were real and they were steep.They led from Salamanca Place up to Battery Point and that little magic circle in Hobart, Arthur Circus.

I found it and sat on a bench under a tree. It was a work day and no one was about. The 1840s cottages looked back at me.

A perfect pocket of peace.

No one was with me. Not my husband. Not my daughter.

The last time I had sat here was with my husband on our honeymoon, nearly 25 years before. We had climbed the stairs together and our friend who lived in one of the cottages had taken our photo. We were smiling and in a different place. That one was a metaphor.

This time, my husband was too incapacitated to walk that far, and didn't really want to anyway. My daughter was getting in a bit of time to watch some Netflix back at the motel.

I felt both that I was in the right time and place, and too sad to cry.

What had those cottages seen?

Built for officers in a bustling and bristling place - now tiny in comparison with their grander neighbours. Protected like a ring of pearls. Twenty-five years ago they saw a couple, 22 years apart in age but not in spirit. Today they see a 49-year-old woman, mother to a 13-year-old child, still no closer to knowing what life is all about.

It was a holiday that had the seeds of sadness in it for me. My husband, at 71, with a leg that causes him constant pain. My dad, at 75, walking more slowly and uncertainly following a stroke earlier this year.

As I get older I understand more clearly how short life is. How my grandmother and great-grandmother walked these steps, lived their lives here, laughed out loud like they were the last of the generations.

They are gone, but they left imprints. A bookshop with my great-grandfather's name. A house where my grandparents lived. The beach they spent their holidays.

I look for traces of them everywhere.

We don't make it to the cemetery but, as a family, stand and gaze at it as we go past on a boat.

The sadness isn't solid. It's painted through with bright shots of colour from our family holiday - the cousins loving each other's company, the family competing loudly over a game of trivial pursuit, and the undeniable feeling of belonging to each other.

The brightest imprints of those days past are ourselves.

Marie Low is a freelance journalist