Things I did in the '80s (and '90s) that my daughter finds mortifying

Exactly what's so terrifying about these images? Bree Element discovers a childhood relived is a treasure trove of emotions.
Exactly what's so terrifying about these images? Bree Element discovers a childhood relived is a treasure trove of emotions.

It started when my 14-year-old daughter found a photo of me, with my sister, at "my deb" in 1993. My teenage girl just couldn't make sense of the teenage me staring back at her.

"Who were you bridesmaid for?" she called suspiciously from the spare room, where she'd found the photo. "Actually, why do you look like the bride?"

I tried hard to explain to her what a debutante ball was - and still is in regional Australia - but I struggled. She spoke not a word; just squinted at me with a tiny confused crease between her brows.

The photo that started it all: me (right) at my debutante ball in 1993 with my younger sister Holly.

The photo that started it all: me (right) at my debutante ball in 1993 with my younger sister Holly.

I made her sit and listen as I flicked through the treasures in the photo box she had found. Stories from my childhood and my teenage years; some she thought were "wow" while others barely warranted a grunt as she Shapchatted instant images of her own face to friends by phone.

But of all the pics, there were three things I did in the 1980s she found beyond comprehension, namely:

1. That I performed skits from Comedy Company at talent quests

It was the show that gave us Col'n Carpenter, Con the Fruiterer, Uncle Arthur and Russ the Postie. Sketch comedy show Comedy Company aired on Capital 7 on Sunday nights and the whole family would sit around the small screen, transfixed. I'd be front and centre, kneeling, my face as close to the telly as I could get before my younger siblings started squealing that they couldn't see.

Dolly did it: Performing the 'Comedy Company' character Jophesine in 1989.

Dolly did it: Performing the 'Comedy Company' character Jophesine in 1989.

Kylie Mole was my idol. I mean, she goes, she goes, she goes, she just GOES. And she introduced the word bogan to the modern Australian vernacular. I could do an excellent gum-twirling Kylie Mole rendition, and I even had a tiny blonde friend named Rebecca who slotted right into playing the Kylie Minogue character of the same name.

But my impersonation of Maryanne Fahey's Jophesine was legendary. (For those struggling to remember, she was the toddler who blamed her naughty behaviour on her headless doll, Dolly.) After winning the Queanbeyan junior hockey talent quest, I was summoned to perform at the senior hockey presentation night at the Queanbeyan Tigers Club. It was a big deal. I was a hit, and everyone said I should "be on the telly".

If only YouTube had have existed in 1989. I'd be a star.

2. I wore jumpers knitted by my mum

My Converse, Jay Jays and Quiksilver-clad daughter would die before she'd wear something home-made. Especially if it was made by me.

Wearing my beloved Twisties jumper on a camping trip to Mount Beauty in 1988.

Wearing my beloved Twisties jumper on a camping trip to Mount Beauty in 1988.

But in the 1980s, my mum could make things you just couldn't find in the shops. She was - and still is - a champion knitter and sewer, and back then she had orders for custom knitted jumpers piled high next to her knitting chair.

She'd whip up a jumper from the newest pattern in the Women's Weekly and when our friends and cousins saw us modelling the latest look, the home phone would ring off the hook with orders.

Koalas were popular. And clowns. And she did 'Bart Simpson on a skateboard' in five different colours for the little kids of the family in the early 90s. But the pièce de résistance was a jumper she knitted for me in 1988.

My Twisties jumper was the ultimate. It was adored by my friends at school and admired by passers-by in the main streets of Queanbeyan. Remember, this was a time when placing Twisties packets in a hot oven and shrinking them down to tiny chip packet keychains was a thing.

I wore that jumper camping. I wore it to bed. I wore it on mufti day at school. I wore it to netball training. And to this day, it sleeps at the foot of my bed in a blanket box. I would have worn it on my wedding day if it still fit.

3. I stayed at the local pool all day, unsupervised

Were you really a kid of the 1980s if you didn't have a season pass to the local pool? Long hot summer days, where you'd arrive with your friends at 8am and stay all day until climbing on your bike, with wrinkly fingers, to head home about 6pm.

Jumping on a trampoline - with no net! - with my cousin Jeremy in 1986.

Jumping on a trampoline - with no net! - with my cousin Jeremy in 1986.

My friends and I would don a pair of togs and a pair of thongs, wrap a towel around our necks and walk down as a small tribe to the Queanbeyan pool. We'd have just enough money for a bucket of chips with sauce for lunch, and a couple of toffee apples (the lollies, not the actual apples) to chew on in the arvo.

We drank water from the bubblers and wore Johnson & Johnson Sundown sunscreen with the outrageously high sun protection factor of 6.

If mum needed us, she'd call the pool's front office; a booming voice on the PA would let you know you had a phone call.

I think my summer pool days more angered my daughter than confused her. I've never let her walk to school on her own and I rarely let her walk to the local shop to buy ice creams or lollies. (In fairness, our 'local shop' is actually a Caltex service station where a man was killed in 2017.)

I loved flicking through my life story in that photo box. And if my daughter found some of my stories from the 1980s mortifying and embarrassing, I don't care. She'll have her own daughter to deal with one day.