Werribee Outdoor Pool
The summer of 2000
The steam rose off the water, dissolving into the atmosphere, taking with it any concern we may have had about where we were, or what we were doing. The time was unclear, but it was undeniably late. The Werribee Outdoor Pool had been closed for hours, but the covers were off and between the street lights and the moon beams, there was enough visibility for what my friends and I had in mind.
The summer air was thick with possibility and I was ready to be foolish. We dragged ourselves through a gap under the wire perimeter – a barrier designed to be tested.
Dutch courage had inspired this expedition and there was no turning back now.
I watched as the others strip down to their underwear, peeling off layers without a care in the world. I followed suit, with every care in the world…. this was way out of my comfort zone.
The warmth of the water enveloped me, immediately laying waste to any issues of comfort. My senses seemed amplified. Eucalyptus and chlorine intermingled, to create a super-scent. Our stifled laughter split the silence of the night. The moonlight gave everything an almost mystical quality. I was suddenly no longer trespassing in my underwear – I was free…. I’m not sure how long we swam for that night, but we didn’t get caught. We walked home, dripping wet, singing songs and feeling incredible.
The night would come to symbolise a shift in my youth. It was the Summer of 2000 and I was ready to bid adieu to my dramatic teenage years and embrace my only-slightly less dramatic twenties. I was determined to make up for any time lost to the toxic wasteland that was my love life….
We were after-high school sweethearts, minus the sweet. We had a friendship that we thought could translate into something more. Instead, we developed new ways to torture each other for approximately two and a half years. We had the kind of relationship that made our mates want to be anywhere else. After breaking up and getting back together 152 times, I finally found an exit strategy that would stick.
My Happiness was awaiting me – I just had to meet it halfway.
My friends and I embarked on a six-month bender that would include entirely too many Southern and Cokes. We walked everywhere, because nobody wanted to be designated driver. We would help ourselves to glassware and street signs, because no mission was complete without a souvenir. We would pile into whichever bedroom was closest at the end of the night and drink whatever alcohol was available, because we weren’t ready for the night to end.
We would talk about the past, the future and the now.
And we would sing….
The music was always playing, because no matter the circumstance, there was a song that would speak to the heart of the matter and we needed to sing along at the very tops of our lungs….
So, you come in and put your bags dooooooown
I know there’s something in the air
How can I do this to you right now
If you’re over there when I need you here
My happiness is slowly creeping back
Now you’re at home
If it ever starts sinking in
It must be when you pack up and go….
Powderfinger had released their now iconic, Odyssey Number 5 album and before it went on to win them a million ARIA Awards, I could already tell that it was a sound that would come to define not only them, but also me.
Bernard Fanning had a truly unique way of stretching out his voice, and we loved nothing more than to replicate it, in what no doubt sounded very obnoxious at 3 in the morning. We would stand, arms wrapped around each other, getting our Fanning on. For me, My Happiness really had been slowly creeping back and with each passing minute, I reclaimed a little piece of myself, from the darkness of days gone by.
Songs can be like relationships. Some will come into your life and bring you exactly what you need at that moment, before fading out almost entirely, serving only to occasionally jog your memory for better or worse. Others will never cease to fill you with the kind of joy we shouldn’t ever have to live without. A warm hug that is never unwanted. Powderfinger’s My Happiness wraps itself around me whenever it comes through my speakers, and much like the friend who stood by my side in the summer of 2000, it’s a relationship that only gets better with time.
Postcript: These days I pay the admission fee at the Werribee Outdoor Pool and walk through the front gates, just like a proper grown up. I swam there regularly when I was pregnant,then watched my daughter develop her water confidence. I think back to that night with my friends and I hope that my daughter is never as silly as her mama!