Coming from a military family meant that my father was away pretty much all of my childhood. Dad had been deployed in different parts of the world – South Korea, Germany, Iraq, etc. – most of the time, you see. He had always been an honorable soldier who his subordinates looked up to for guidance and wisdom. I often heard stories about his heroism when some of Dad’s friends – retired or not – would visit our house to talk about their days with my father.
In truth, I could not blame them for putting Dad on a massive pedestal in their minds. He was among those soldiers who refused to leave any man behind during a crisis – not even when the terrorists were already bombing them somewhere in the Middle East. And though not all of them could come out alive, he made sure to retrieve the fallen soldiers’ bodies and bring them to back to their families in the US.
Even in my young mind, I also knew that Dad was a rare man. He was not always around to do daddy duties, but he would time his calls every morning to wake us up and every night to bid us sweet dreams. Then, my father would also fix his vacations at summer so that we could go to the beach as a family.
When Dad retired after 20 years in the service, I was already in middle school, while my baby sister was in sixth grade. He took on daddy duties as if that’s what he had been doing forever. He drove us to school, sometimes made us lunch, and helped with our homework. As expected, he had a lot of veteran stories to share during our downtime, although they were practically PG-Rated to suit his very young audience.
Dad’s stories became a staple during bedtime. At nine o’clock, we would all convene around my baby sister’s bed – Dad, Mom, and I – to listen about their adventures in the great, big world. Our favorite one about his time in Australia.
My father only spent six months in this sovereign country because the US only had a small base there compared to other countries. However, it was apparently where he had the most fun, stress-free times and often thought, “I want to bring my kids here someday.”
Among all Dad’s escapades, we always talked about visiting Sovereign Hill in Victoria, Australia. From what we heard, it was an open-air museum where all the attendees wore costumes from mid-19th century and did not mind if the guests did, too. Of course, the idea of being in costumes attracted us young, dreamy girls, so we fantasized about going there when we were a little older – when we could pay for our parents’ tickets and everything else.
Going To Australia
Our family did not get to go to Australia until I was already working. My parents opened a catering business soon after Dad’s retirement so that they could support us through college. As soon as I got my first Christmas bonus, therefore, I surprised them with a one-week trip to Australia.
We focused on the state of Victoria because Dad wanted to show us the national parks there. I especially liked the Great Otway with its falls and natural waters. Then, we met up with some of my father’s old friends who were either deployed in Australia or chose to live there for good.
But my sister and I looked forward to visiting Sovereign Hill the most. We even brought 19th century dresses and spent on extra luggage at the airport just for that. When it finally happened, the museum did not fail to deliver.
Realizations While Fulfilling The Dream
As I was walking around the Sovereign Hill, it genuinely felt like I stepped back in time when the people started mining gold for the first time. It was no different from the little mining villages you would see in Western movies, complete with bakeries and a post office. Then, my parents called me to ride the tram for an underground mine tour, which astounded me more.
At first, I feared of feeling claustrophobic upon hearing the word “underground.” But the longer we toured the goldfields, the quicker my fear got replaced by awe. There was nothing scary about the displays that the museum set up underground; they showed how the people used to live there and how gold became a significant aspect of their lives. I loved the experience so much that I dragged my parents in the other underground to do a walking self-guided tour.
The trip to Sovereign Hill was hands-down the most unforgettable one that we had as a family. It brought us all back to the time when the Aussies in the area had nothing until they found gold to mine. Then, their entire world revolved around it, and they wanted to show much they valued it through the creation of Sovereign Hill.
If you ever get a chance to visit Australia, find some time to visit the gold-mining museum, too.