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My four siblings and I rarely ate any ‘junk’ or processed food until we were teenagers. We lived on homegrown veggies and meat, salad sandwiches and carrot juice — so much of the latter that our skin would turn orange.

The rare treat or ice-cream we consumed were a big deal.

This being 15–20 years ago, some local boys (and the occasional girl) wagged school to meet at the skate park. They wore their jeans almost hanging to their knees and their caps backwards. They exchanged Pokemon cards and ambled around town without any supervision.

A trip to town or skate park meant we mixed with children who we imagined were able to eat anything. As we skated or roller-bladed, we watched the children around us consume lollies (sweets/candy for those not in Australia), chocolate, chips (crisps) and soft drink.

We thought they were either quite naughty or very unhealthy!

On the farm we rode horses and motorbikes, climbed trees, read hundreds of books and schooled at home. One of my brothers built his own scooters out of wood and trolley wheels, and painted them bright colours. They were quite a thrill to ride, having no brakes and getting up plenty of speed down a hill.

His contraptions attracted attention wherever he went. At one Australia day ceremony, Gillian Rolton autographed his scooter. In time he got a ‘real’ metal scooter, but mum has never let anyone throw out the home-made ones. They’re still in the shed!

Even though we envied the other kids at the park, we thought they were nothing like us. We even started calling them “lolly boys”, because we assumed that is all they ate. The name stuck for years and described anyone who looked a little rebellious.

The word still comes to mind when I see pants hanging low, or skateboards.

I insisted on wearing long skirts for years, even while hiking.

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The Little Brown Dress trio

Two dear friends and I raised over $1800 for charity by hand-sewing and wearing one dress for 35 days in protest of consumerism and exploitation.

We did get some strange looks if we all went out together, but it was a good conversation starter. We had a wonderful time and what we learnt from our experiment has stayed with us.

I successfully repeated the experiment a few years later.

While homeschooling protected us from much of the usual peer-pressures at school, we were still human.

It took me a long time to realise that I was not superior to anyone and that my attitude has been on the nose at times! Assigning labels to people and grouping according to difference rather than similarity, only leads to distrust and loneliness.

If I could go back and re-do that part of my childhood, I would try to make friends with those kids and sneak a lolly or two!

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