Revisiting my Childhood Home

I remember how it was back then with loved wood and clean paint and gleaming brass chains on the toilet cisterns. I remember the kind of old furniture that the families collected and wooden toilet seats not these plastic weird-coloured pieces of …

Well anyway, I know it’s been 23 years but still, the way that gum tree has grown is shocking… and the way the pepper tree looks like the kind of thing you ought to hang a swing from. Oh and that sad hole in the line of cypresses so you can see buildings through the gap… and now there’s grass growing instead of that soft dirt we used to build roads in for our toy cars. But at least the trees still smell the same.

There’s a new jacaranda – that amazing Sydney purple – and there are several fully grown silky oaks that were never there before. The hills hoist has shrunk tiredly in the jungle. The rotund grevillea bush where the cat used to catch mynah birds has disappeared completely and I can hear bell birds instead of willy wagtails.

I wanted to walk around the dam but the paddocks are so tall with paspalum and the sun turned up on full and I’m a little afraid of snakes. I can just see the top of the pump-house over the blackberries – the little corrugated iron shaded window sort of winking lopsidedly.

Inside, the heat presses down from the tall gables, finding its way into every crevice and baking my confusion. I love this place – the grace and age of it, my memories, my pointy teen-age room with gecko-knots running the lengths of pine board on the ceiling. I love it but I don’t love seeing the cobwebs in the windows and the peeling basins and the grubby laundry tub. And I don’t love how somebody’s strung an ugly shower curtain like a circus tent around the claw-foot bath. And the pot belly stove is rusty with the inscription “FATSO” edged in red-brown instead of black. I don’t love how the wisteria’s little pergola looks flaked and frail and how the verandah posts are losing their grip.

Nostalgia is a fearsome thing – the Loch Ness Monster of the heart. People say you don’t have to succumb, but I’m just a little canoe in the big ol’ lake of my own history. It tips me right up some days, and I sink unconsciously into the cool, sepia pictures with their unmistakable rosy tint.

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