Tag Archives: home

The sun also burns

Where to begin? More travels (to Canada and the US – blog post TBC), more questions, more sunshine? More indecision.

I suppose I should pick up from where I left off; that turgid post of doom in which I lamented a misfortune of my own making. Indeed, I felt horrible. I felt trapped. I felt stuck back in a city that I had longed to escape since childhood, and I felt physically and emotionally constrained by our choice of home. There were days where I cried and cried and missed my grandparents, and thought of all the stupid shit I have done in this town, and returned day after day to my trailer park home, where my boys were tanned from a day in the sun, and I was fatigued from a day of trying to wrap my head around laws that protect children from parents worse than my own, and systems that exist so that the State can be your parent when your own cannot.

I don’t know why I described myself in the above paragraph as struggling to understand the legislation I am tasked to review. This is something that is not difficult for me. The problem of course is that what we are skilled to do, and what brings us joy, are not always one and the same. This is complicated even further when a thing we are capable at, but which does not guarantee emotional satisfaction, also brings with it a steady stream of income. The choices are too many for me to compute at times.

Do something you love which pays little? Feel emotionally sated but perpetually poor?
Do something you can tolerate because it pays well and allows you the freedom to spend you income on things that satisfy you?
Do nothing but explore the world, funded by years of work at mundane jobs, in order to allow yourself to build bonds with your children and husband that 40+ hours a week in an office can threaten to erode?
Buy less, love more?

In an earlier post I wrote about finally figuring out – years later – that my reasons for studying law were always flawed. I was always one of those bright and annoying children, whose vocabulary surpassed my elders – a similarity I now witness in my son J. My personality and intellect, like everyone’s, was partly genes, partly nature, and partly situational (because my grandparents read to me often). I was always included in adult conversations and I performed on cue the role of precocious, entertaining child. I brought home certificate after certificate – art, writing, reading, public speaking (maths was noticeably absent from my skill-set) and my grandparents loved it. But while they heaped me with praise for my report cards that were littered with As, for every positive remark, there was a small jab. They were not happy with B grades. They were dissatisfied with the comments that always followed on my report cards about my apparent refusal to work to my potential. They were dismayed that I did not seem to take anything academic particularly seriously, and they asked me regularly what I planned to do with my life, suggesting along the way that with my love of words and performance, journalism or law would probably be a perfect fit (spoiler alert: it was not).

But why does all this come up for me? Why are all these issues at the forefront of my mind?

Because, Brisbane.

In an episode of the Simpsons, Lisa begs Chief Wiggum to not eat the clues. She appears to him in a backwards-speaking, Twin Peaks-esque scene where he is trying to solve the crime of who shot Mr Burns. Lisa appears to guide Chief Wiggum to the answer he already has. The evidence he needs is in his possession, he just hasn’t realised it yet.


Now, a month after my last post, I have figured more out about the evidence before me, and instead of eating the delicious, tropical clues, I feel like I’m finally making sense of them.

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This sunny, water-lined scene is the life I grew up in, with the islands of Moreton Bay my backyard (note: I have only been to Stradbroke Is AKA Straddie TWICE, such was my grandparents’ disdain for the Shire they called home). I grew up around families who went camping on these islands, whose parents threw barbecues poolside, and who spent their sunny weekends taking the family boat out on the bay. And now, as a parent myself, I see the cohort of names I remember repeating the lessons learned in childhood, played out before me on Facebook. Sand, surf, sea, sun. Rinse and repeat.

The life of sunshine and sea-spray could have been mine, but it wasn’t, and it was never going to be. My Nanny couldn’t swim. My grandfather despised the Queensland beaches, only ever surfing in Yamba. It was a shame I didn’t feel part of this scene because I was a reasonably good swimmer and I tanned beautifully in the sun. But I was so hell-bent on ruining my life before it even began, I didn’t pay much attention to all the beauty around me, and how lucky I was to call this place my home.

So now, some 20 years later, where I watch my children play every day in the pool, where my son turns brown in the sun as I do, and where I can walk to work from my apartment in South Brisbane, no longer needing to battle the daily commute, I am again trapped in this familiar sense of disconnection, because I could have everything I want here, but I can’t.

This place would give me everything familiar. Everything, except happiness.

I can’t stay in Brisbane, my home town. There are too many scars. The wounds are still raw in places, such was the force with which they were inflicted. I am re-truamatising myself continuously – with wonderings about the could-haves and what-ifs and the ongoing sense of guilt and shame for all I have done. And it’s not that I ever did anything particularly horrendous – I didn’t rob any one at knifepoint (or otherwise) or steal a car. I just view my past as all being missed chances to have been a better person, a kinder granddaughter, to have been more present, nicer, more caring. But I wasn’t that person. I’m playing catch-up now trying to become that person. So all Brisbane tells me is that I will never get that time back, and being here, in this place, is a constant reminder of what I have lost.

Family. Friends. A different kind of life.

I try to be kind to myself, and to console myself with words like, “Sarah, you were young when you were here. You didn’t know any better. You did the best you could. You didn’t have support or guidance. Everyone makes mistakes.” But the problem is that I am, and have always been painfully, frighteningly hard on myself. I have never understood the self-love movement as I am mired somewhere between dislike and apathy. I have tried for years to remedy this, but I fear that when you are told in your formative years that you are a burden, a mistake and a failure, a future in which you outwardly champion your own existence is asking a bit much.

As I alluded to in my last post, D and I decided to bite the bullet and make a financially stupid but psychologically astute decision to rent an apartment near the city and forego our caravan for a little while. A borrowed queen sized bed is our only furniture, other than a small coffee table and a little kids table for the boys to eat at. Our boys are sleeping on mattresses from the caravan; we have pushed the two single mattresses together and sometimes when we are lucky, little N will snuggle up to his big brother and leave us in peace for a whole night.
We borrowed a television from my best friend and a bar fridge from her aunt. While I am at work the boys hang out in the nearby parks playing outdoors or swimming the pool. Sometimes they will go to GoMA, or play in South Bank, or walk through the museum. The local public school – pretending I was to send J to it – is down the road, and I have heard coworkers speak of it glowingly. D’s boxing gym is a short jog away. We spend our weekends catching up with friends we have missed since moving to Melbourne seven years ago, or we drive to the beach. We are healthier than we ever were in Melbourne, thanks to almost endless sunshine and fresh air.

We could have been really happy here.

And, yet.
It’s me.
It’s not you, Brisbane. It’s me.

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There are days when I feel irreparably broken. When I believe with abject certainty that I will never be fixed, that I will never be ‘normal’ and that my father was right in all he ever said about me, and that my mother was right to flee. How could a parent not want to cradle the smooth, perfect skin of the life they created? My only answer for that is my own utter lack of worth, visible since I was merely minutes old. I can grow older, amass a new family, develop coping strategies and self-awareness, gain employment, earn a wage, buy nice things, but it means nothing if underneath it all I am undeniably ruined.

Does this come up more for me because I am back in Brisbane, the scene of so many crimes of the heart (and a few garden variety street offences)? Or is it because of something more sinister, something within me that I can never change? The creatives in the world are often the ones cursed with thoughts like these. I take comfort knowing I’m in good company.

But putting aside my oscillating thought processes, the other burning issue at hand is of course what we should do next. In no particular order, here are the options D and I have narrowed down for our family.

1. D goes back to work, I stay at home with the boys.  We want to be with them but the past 5 months of D being the stay-at-home parent have been fraught. He is a wonderful father and plays with the boys for hours. But he isn’t a great housewife, even if he looks good in an apron.  So if anyone is going to work, it will be him. And yet despite knowing this, and agreeing to it, I still complete job applications to random employers all over the world, because I am addicted to rolling the dice.

2. Stay in Brisbane. D would be happy with this. I would be happy for a few weeks before descending into some kind of psychotic break that paralyses me until I can be brought back to consciousness with a plane ticket.

3. Return to Melbourne. D is not keen on this idea, for reasons that make complete sense, namely that if it didn’t feel right a year ago it’s probably not right now. But yet, I do miss Melbourne. To me it feels like home, but that could be just because it’s the last place we were settled.

4. Find a smaller town somewhere and buy a big block of land. D claims he would love this. He wants to repair old motorcycles and have a shed again. We want our dog back. But I am terrified and unsure if my immediate response is a valid one or just one that has been honed from years of telling myself that I needed to live in a major city because that was the only way I would escape the small town mindset I came to view as normal.

5. We go somewhere rural. D is a country boy at heart, and assures me that the boys would have plenty of space and we could do cool stuff on the property to make it AirBandB worthy when we aren’t there. But how would we travel when we would have animals to look after? And how does a vegetarian get by in dairy and cattle farmer territory?

6. We try a new Australian city, e.g. Darwin. We like the idea of the tropics without the familiarity of the Eastern seaboard. We like the proximity to Asia. We like the multiculturalism. D could find work easily. Baby N could eat mangoes all year round. And we could have our crazy cattle dog Clancy back with us again. It’s an unexpected front-runner at the moment, though with everything we discuss, that’s subject to change at a moment’s notice.

7. We go overseas again and do some volunteer work. What better way to teach our kids about the world? We could find a villa in Bali, help with turtle conservation and help little kids to speak English. I have thought about doing post-grad study in education for years and for some reason I always back out. Maybe this would be a nice way to test the waters given that I did a 6 year double degree only to set foot in a law firm and realise I’d made a terrible mistake. But then I worry about the kids, and mozzie bites, and illnesses, and how we would manage it all. I want to challenge my children, but I don’t necessarily want to scar them for life.

8. In addition to all of this, I should add that D has a job offer in Vancouver. It would be a great job – perfect for him and would also let him work from home for most of the week. I love the idea of taking the boys out every day exploring a new city. But – Visas. We don’t think he can get a Visa without the assistance of the company, and for them to hire a foreign worker involves a lot of work on their part to illustrate that they tried to find a Canadian to do the job and could not.

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9. D could find a job overseas (Australian company with an international posting). But D will only go if it helps advance his employability; he won’t go if it is going to cost us money and makes no financial sense after you take away accommodation expenses/cost of living etc. I’m no mathemagician but he has a point.

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10. We pack up our lives again and just drive with the van. D is happy with this, and I am as well, although remembering how cramped I was in that tiny bed wedged between a sideboard, a toddler and my husband is not without its concern.

11. We go back to what is safe, D gets a job, I get a job, the boys go to school/daycare, we buy a nice house in a nice neighbourhood and we have a walk-in pantry and a big fridge and I drink wine in a coffee cup to quell the burning realisation that I had a chance to do something amazing with my children before they got too big, and instead I got scared, and returned to what is familiar. Maybe I could save turtles during school holiday breaks?

So there it is, Launderers. Now you know everything. Feel free to pass on your worldly advice because each day the weight of these decisions are eating away at the usually calm soul of my indecisive Libran husband, and are threatening to drive my erratic nature to doing something impulsive. Like, announcing to my employer that I will finish up in June.

Which I have already done.

But before I finish this post, let me stress that having options is a wonderful thing. We are blessed to have so many possibilities we could explore. We are fortunate to be educated such that we can find employment in various locations and forms. And above all of that, we are so very lucky to have two little children who are healthy and happy, and who could not care less where their crazy parents take them, as long as we are all together.

And that – that, I can promise, we will be.

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Countdown to D-Day

Since my last post much has transpired in preparation for our upcoming departure with caravan. Our new home is near completion and packing is underway. How exciting! I would love to say. I do feel excited, and I feel grateful for that when I do. But I also feel a range of other emotions, as is expected when one makes a life changing decision that affects their whole family. The anxiety is the worst; in the past few weeks it comes to me just at bedtime, just as my muscles begin to unclench from their permanent state of arousal, and just as my mind begins to blur into slumber. My legs, restless, kicking and jerking as though possessed by the blood of an athlete, my breathing frenzied and erratic. An overwhelming desire to scream as loudly as possible and to do something, take something, to just melt the friction away.

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I don’t though. I try to calm my breathing. Sometimes I’ll do yoga nidra. Sometimes I’ll annoy my husband. But most times I’ll do what seems to me to be the most natural thing in the world when faced with a sense of chaos – to read about the worsened state of chaos of another. My method for doing this is simple: coronial reports. Publicly accessible, these PDFs have lulled me to sleep more times than a lullaby ever has. The stories are harrowing, traumatic, often graphic and at times incredibly cruel. And yet despite my knowledge that feeding the beast that is anxiety is often fraught with danger, for me, sometimes, this is the safest way to view catastrophe without actually having to be within it. And while it is true that working as a lawyer and in public policy meant that there were times that I needed to read these stories for reasons purely related to work, I can’t rely on this exposure to the reports to make me seem less macabre and sadistic, because I would have probably sought these documents out anyway. Not just because I am a voyeur of tragedy, but also because I have an at-times insatiable need to explore and examine daily life. And to write about it.

Over the years I have of course examined my own life (mainly to confirm what I once suspected, namely that I possessed insurmountable flaws; fortunately these ended up just being superficial marks of wear and tear) and while doing this in recent times my husband and I agreed that we needed to shake things up a bit. Well, not just a bit. A lot. Hence the decision to quit our jobs, sell our house and go travelling around the country with our boys in a caravan.

I like those odds.
I like those odds.

I am writing this post in the one remaining chair that I own, which now has the honour of being the sole piece of loungeroom furniture in a pleasingly uncluttered room. The couch I nursed my J on for hours on end has been given away; so too has the side table I used to use to rest my makeup on in our old house in Queensland. We have sold our television cabinets, and given away our business suits. I have parted with more toys owned by my sons than I care to think about, not pausing to be sentimental as I pictured the joy they would bring to another child who has gone without for too long. I have taken down lovingly etched artworks done by my son, and I have photographed each piece, vowing to turn the stack of squiggles into some kind of memento. I had all his pieces in a box, ready for the recycling bin, and then it hit me. The bubbling waves of sadness that caused my stomach to flip. The gritted teeth. The clenched jaw. Then, the onslaught.

I wept, and wept, and wept.

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This home, this cozy, quirky little home is the place where I fell pregnant with J. It is where I looked down blissfully to see two pink lines on a test that confirmed I was to become a mother. It is where I paced the floorboards for hours with my unsettled first baby as he thrashed restlessly in my arms. It is the place where I warmed bottles in the night or rolled to my side, hoisting up my top to feed my child. It is the place that kept us warm on grey Melbourne days and where the sun shone in streams through the back deck on springtime afternoons.

This home is the location from which I have walked kilometres with a pram on bleary mornings after nights that involved pitiful amounts of sleep, determined to source a hit of caffeine. On these walks I have discussed the mechanics of ‘mixer trucks’ (which may or may not have been accurate), taught J to read numbers from the letterboxes we passed, and sung to baby N as he watched the world pass by from his cushioned, blanketed seat. I have walked my boys to our childcare centre, an amazing gem of a place that has become a second home to me, and where I’ve had long chats with staff who have become family. And while I can leave the material things behind, knowing I am saying goodbye to this friendly place, with its bright handprint paintings and its adjacent dinosaur park, and the staff who smile at me even when I am wearing food stained hoodies and a baseball cap to hide my hair, is too hard for me to even contemplate yet, so I won’t.

In the 34 years I have been on this planet, our home in the inner west of Melbourne is the only space in which I have ever felt as though I belonged; not just within the walls of my house but as part of a community. By the time I was 7 years old I had already been to five different kindergartens and schools, spanning three different states. I had said hello and goodbye to parents who dipped their toes into the murky water of family life, only to hoist their limbs away with a jolt. After living in the Redlands for almost 20 years, the only feeling that consumed me about my neighbourhood was the desire to escape it in one piece. Until adulthood, my experience of life was always on the outer, and when it wasn’t, I usually found a way to extract myself from attaching to anything with even a whiff of impermanence. My skills at building walls were impressive in their efficiency.

After making the agonizing move to Melbourne from Brisbane, away from the grandparents for whom I felt solely responsible and desperately conflicted, I rationalized my absence by telling myself I would last only a year here. One year south of the border, and then I would return home. But I didn’t, because something strange and unexpected happened, and that was I fell in love with my new home. I made friends with other mums who I visited with my sleep deprived, cranky children, women who fed me cups of tea and chocolate biscuits as we lamented our lack of slumber. My son made friends with kids from school with whom he acts out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle moves (he is Leo), and spends part of his weekend on the swings or running in the green expanse of one of the nearby parks. I have watched both my children grow in this place; our little house in the inner west, minutes from the city, minutes from parks, walking distance to the shops, surrounded by families, and soon, on the market for someone else to buy.

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I tend to do this – I leap into decisions with an air of impulsivity, only to have my emotions catch up with me as time moves forward. Now that my husband has resigned from work and our house is strewn with boxes do I realise the gravity of the choice we have made. But even so, I know it’s the right choice. I know it’s what we need to do. If we had felt fully content and settled, the need to shake things up would never have crossed our minds. So as we move forward to D-Day, I am optimistic about having no itinerary and no set ideas of where we will live next, although part of me hopes that one day we will come back here, to the place I never expected to live or love, because as much as I believe that home is where the heart is (and for me, it is with my boys), there is something beautiful about carving out a special place of your own in a world where you have often felt on the periphery.

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Home, sweet home

On the weekend, Hubby and I bundled up our car-loathing child and went for a long drive to the country. I shouldn’t be too harsh on our young man – he actually coped rather well with being forcibly restrained in a moving vehicle from which there was no escape. Fortunately after an hour of driving we located a picturesque footy ground up in the hills, and let him free at half time for a run around in the rain. He was as happy as a pig in mud (which he essentially was).

The purpose of our drive to the country was to suss out the area; learning more about suburbs and scenery. Truth be told, we are at a point in our lives where we would love a change of pace…but we just can’t decide what that pace should be.

One part of us would love nothing more than to buy a big block of land where our children can have space to run around happily, and where our fur child can have a clean slate with local authorities. Hubby and Child(ren) could play footy outside, bringing a steady stream of dirt into the house, before wrestling playfully in front of our log fire, while I try to avoid them bumping my glass of bio-dynamic, preservative-free wine. I could rescue dogs by day and write my memoirs by night, stopping only to bake pies made with locally sourced organic apples, and to sip tea as I gaze out onto my vast estate.

Of course if we are relocating to the country, we want a nice house, given that we will be spending a lot of time in it. This means lots of storage space, a renovated kitchen and spacious bathroom, a spare room for guests…the list goes on.

But then another part of us would love to farewell Australia (temporarily) and relocate overseas, to a bustling hub like Manhattan or Singapore. Hubby could continue to climb the corporate ladder, and my career could take a short hiatus while I dedicate myself to challenges like navigating public transport with two children under three years of age. The little ones and I could spend our days exploring new neighbourhoods, and taking in the local sights, sounds and judgmental glares of locals. It would be an experience we would never forget (even if there came a time when we wanted to).

But, as with the country dream, we have certain wants for any city apartment we call home – close to amenities, spacious enough for our family, and with all the bells and whistles of modern living.

I have never lived outside suburbia and the city fringes. When my grandparents first brought me home to live with them, we lived in a quiet cul-de-sac in Canberra. I used to ride my bike to pre-school, via a conveniently located bike track adjoining our street. My Grandad would spend these trips to and from school trying to catch up with me and shouting For Christ’s sake, slow down! as I whizzed along obliviously.

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Although we lived in Canberra for five years – a mere three hours’ drive from Sydney where my parents continued enjoying their child-free lives – the possibility of my parents relocating to be closer to me was never raised. I don’t know why they only visited when their social lives permitted. And I don’t know why they both thought that when they did see me, they could just pick up where they’d left off, as though nothing had happened. As though they’d never left.

Regardless, my grandparents and I ended up moving to Sydney, so that I could live closer to my parents. But within one year of us arriving in Sydney, my father had embarked upon a year long trip abroad with his then-girlfriend. The following year, my mother would do the same thing, packing up her life to backpack across Europe before eventually relocating there permanently. Did these plans of fleeing the country only come to fruition when I moved into my parents’ backyards? Was I really that unlikeable?

So while my parents drank foreign wines and feasted on foreign foods, my grandparents were in the trenches, trying to adjust to sharing their lives with me.

When we first arrived in Sydney, the three of us lived in a hotel room on Oxford Street in Darlinghurst, a place I didn’t mind too much as the hotel had a rooftop swimming pool. We would call this our home for a cramped six months. I went to a scary, concrete-riddled school in Surry Hills where I hated everyone, except my teacher who gave me a certificate for being good at reading.

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My ACTUAL certificate.

The area was also teeming with drug addicts and prostitutes, and on more than one occasion I recall my grandfather being propositioned as we walked home. Keep walking; head down! he would shout at me, as we hurried along the city streets.

Thankfully, living in a hotel room was an interim arrangement, and we eventually relocated to a suburb in north-west Sydney, where we would live in a large three bedroom unit on an arterial road for over a year. But my Nanny was still schlepping it into the city by train every day for work, and so it was eventually decided that we would move back into the city to ease the commute. We moved into a two bedroom apartment in Randwick, which was conveniently located directly opposite the school I would attend.

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Our ACTUAL unit complex.

Our two bedroom apartment was also conveniently located opposite the local cemetery.

The ACTUAL cemetery across the road from my house.
The ACTUAL cemetery across the road from my house.

I mean really, what child doesn’t want to live a stone’s throw from the decaying bones of strangers?

Life in Randwick was generally unpleasant. My school literally had no grass, and consisted of cold, old buildings joined together by corridors with linoleum floors. And when I wasn’t ripping up my knees on asphalt at school, I was at home wondering when my grandparents and I would be murdered.*

*In a questionable choice of late-night viewing, my grandparents used to let me watch the news before bed. Every night we would tune in and see what horrific crimes we had managed to dodge for another day. My Nanny would exclaim comforting words like “Ooh! That’s our laundromat!” when footage of a drive-by shooting came on our screen. The news would also teach me that the oval used by my grass-free school for sports carnivals had been the site of a homicide. So comforting! The constant stream of apparent violent crime on my doorstep, coupled with the proximity of the nearby graveyard and the age and fragility of my grandparents meant I was almost permanently fixed in a state of utter certainty that their deaths were just minutes away. Describing my feelings as ones of terror is somewhat of an understatement.

During our time in Randwick, my mother would occasionally visit me on a Saturday, which of course meant that I would spend Friday night completely unhinged, and unable to sleep. Once Saturday arrived, I would enjoy outings with my mother that required me to be placed in any number of awkward and uncomfortable situations, such as dress shopping (I hated dresses and I hated shopping), or going to the beach with her and her boyfriend. I knew nothing about said boyfriend, other than the fact that he drove a Kombi van and liked to make out with my mother on the sand for inordinate amounts of time. I would use this time to stare at the waves while wondering if anyone would notice if I wandered into the water and never came back.

By the time my grandparents and I legged it out of Sydney and moved to Queensland, I was 7 years old. Seeing as both my parents had fled the jurisdiction, my grandparents reasoned that there was no point in us hanging around in our tiny unit, dodging bullets at the laundromat. So instead, we packed up our lives and headed north, to embark on life in the Sunshine State.

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Our house in Cleveland – a suburb better known as the epicentre of all things strawberry growing – was, in comparison to our previous units, huge. Five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, a lounge room and a living room, and only 18 months old. I had never seen so much space. On our first night there, I actually got lost trying to find my room.

We even had a backyard, which I reasoned made this the perfect time to ask for a puppy. I was unsuccessful – Nanny instead told me bluntly that I would never be able to cope if it died (whether or not this set me up for a lifetime of anxiety around the inevitable deaths of others, I am not sure. It probably didn’t help.)

Our house in Cleveland promised to be the start of better times. My grandparents were now both retired and spending their days watching daytime television and pottering in the garden. Conversely, my parents were spending their days globe-trotting across other continents, meaning their sporadic visits ceased. I was able to spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons in my pajamas instead of pacing a tiny unit nervously as I waited for the doorbell to ring.

But, as with everything, this sense of comfort, of stillness, was fleeting. As the days became weeks, then months, it all started to unravel.

My father returned to his life in Sydney – much the way as he left it, but without that annoying child of his in the same state. Still, he would visit us from time to time, usually in summer so he could stay at his parents house at night but spend his days at the coast, surfing and catching up with friends. Often he would bring his new girlfriend to our house with him, who would smoke cigarettes in our backyard, while my Nanny flapped her hand at the air, batting imaginary smoke away.

My mother ended up living permanently in England, but returned to Australia for the occasional visit and rang my house most Sunday nights for a chat. I was always polite, and I was always friendly, even if in my heart I felt torn as to what kind of relationship I was expected to have with her. This went on for years.

And the house – the pristine, spacious, sprawling residence we called our home – also started to falter. By September 2013, some twenty-four years after we had first moved in, it was a shadow of its former self. Its owners were hoarders, who over the years had become progressively worse in their retention of junk, meaning that barely an inch of floor was visible in main living areas. Its carpets peeled at the corners of every one of its rooms; corners obscured only by the carcasses of dead cockroaches and cobwebs. Its bathrooms were mouldy, caked in grime, and its insides, once a clean slate of promise and possibility, were now covered in dust, stained, and hidden by debris.

But the saddest part about the depletion of this house isn’t even that its owners could no longer sustain the up-keep it required. It isn’t that it has borne witness to countless arguments and fights, culminating in the punching of its walls and the slamming of its doors. It isn’t even that its floors have been soiled with vomit, blood and human excrement, from the declining health of its past owner, who lay on the bathroom floor with her head in my lap as she convulsed, close to death.

Although these moments in time were sad, the saddest part about the decay of this house is that somewhere along the line, it stopped being a home.

It no longer has a loving family inside of it, keeping it warm, cosy and loved. Its current two inhabitants are either too old and frail, or too selfish and lazy, to care for it. It no longer has proud owners tending to it by cleaning its floors and mowing its lawns – those tasks are now contracted out to strangers.  And it no longer has a little girl running down the hallways and giggling with delight while announcing that she and her toys have written a play they would like to perform immediately.

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Instead, this house accommodates a lonely, elderly man who now only has his failing memories of what life used to be like to give him warmth. Also sharing the house is my grandfather’s gambling addicted daughter, who feeds him untruths, whilst sapping him for money and shelter. This house is now home to isolation and neglect, both of itself, and its once proud owner, my once dear Grandad.

This house is a place I have tried countless times to finesse, to make beautiful again. But its spirit, its soul, is gone. It is now the sanctity of a woman who hates me, and a man who calls me a liar and a thief. I wonder if I will set foot in this house – the house I used to call a home, with people I used to call family – ever again.

Perhaps as my husband and I go in search of our new house, I should keep this in mind. Because it won’t matter where we decide to live – be it a house on acreage or a modern apartment in a high-rise. It also won’t matter if the house we move into doesn’t have a renovated kitchen, or if the apartment doesn’t have enough storage space.

The outside, the exterior, is irrelevant. What is important is our home’s insides – insides that will house the laughter we share with our friends, the squeals of delight from our son as his Dad blows raspberries on his tummy, and the snoring of our fur child, snuggled at our feet.

So no matter what we decide, I know that we will make any house a home. We will give it a soul, because within its walls, we will make our life together. And unlike the poor old house in Cleveland, which is now a mere shell of the house it used to be, that’s the way our home will stay. Although I will probably never hang a tapestry on the wall to say it, in my heart I will know that whatever it may look like, and wherever it may be, it will be our family home – our home sweet home.

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Thursday Throwback #3 – A day in the life of

I have been rather focussed on the past in recent posts, so today, instead of a throwback to what my diary entries used to be like, I thought I would post an example of what a diary entry would look like now, if I actually bothered to write one. Enjoy!

Monday 7 April 2014

0130 – Wake up needing to pee. The joys of pregnancy. Remember from being pregnant with my son how many times I used to have to get up overnight. Currently only need to get up once and am thankful for that. Expect to be back asleep by 0200.

0200 – Am not back asleep. Have instead been kept awake by husband snoring. He is congested and sniffly and soon begins a marathon one hour sneezing fit. Wonder if I should just relocate to the spare bedroom but realise there is clean laundry all over the bed that I am yet to fold. Ask husband to relocate instead, but he assures me the worst is over.

0400 – Husband lied. Worst is not over. In between sneezing, Husband tosses and turns from side to side, ripping the doona off me. When he is still, he is snoring. I prod him in the back and say Shhh, you’re snoring! He replies with No I’m not – I’m not even asleep. I ask him if he thinks I am just making up a story about his snoring to entertain myself at four in the bloody morning. He doesn’t answer because he has fallen back asleep. I know this because he is snoring. Again.

0600 – Am wrenched from the depths of slumber by 2-year-old, shouting as he does every morning MUMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAA! MUMMMMMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAA!  Yell out to him that I am on my way. Wonder what sort of crazy child does not like to sleep in.

0601 – Realise I still have headache from the day before. Wish it was due to having a fun-filled bender last night, but as I was in bed at 9.30pm after inhaling a handful of choc chip cookies, this is not possible. Lurch out of bed. My growing bump is already causing me hip pain. Try to stretch. Fail. Instead, stand on child’s matchbox car. Swear. Dog starts barking. Swear at dog.

0602 – Husband still sneezing and complains of dizziness. The room is horizontal, he says. He lies back down in bed, to be horizontal like the room. Wish I was horizontal.

0603 – Enter child’s room. He tells me No, go away! Leave child’s room. He says Mummmaaaaaaa! Back! Wonder if I can appease him by lying on the floor, halfway across doorway. Dog is still barking. Yell at dog.

0610 – Remove child from his toasty, warm sleeping bag. Attempt to change his nappy. He kicks and flails and I try to remain patient whilst secretly wishing I could restrain him in some kind of metal harness. Suddenly he stops, and presents his delicious little feet up to my face for me to give his toes a morning kiss. I momentarily forget that I only narrowly avoided jaw dislocation by the same feet seconds earlier.

0615 – Realise husband is still in bed. Want to be sympathetic but am annoyed instead. Go to bedroom to retrieve work clothes that barely fit due to expanding girth. Change in lounge room, whilst keeping an eye on child who is demanding toast. Can hear husband sneezing from under our doona. Sigh.

0620 – Put bread in toaster. Child has been on a toast-only diet for longer than I can remember. I am nailing this parenting thing. Child sees me with bread and runs to kitchen where he demands, Up, up!  I slump over and hoist up his 15kg frame to allow him to see the toaster. He cries. He wants toast now. Toast has to go pop! I explain, pointing to the toaster. He doesn’t care. He continues to beg for toast. I give him half a piece of bread to shut him up. Tell myself it’s okay because it’s wholemeal.

0625 – Leave child on couch watching television and eating toast because when I attempt to put child in high chair he screams and refuses to bend his legs at the knee. Watch as Vegemite is smeared on my couch. No longer care.

0645 – Start to do hair and makeup in bedroom. My absence is noticed by child, who follows me. Child begins pulling things off dressing table – foundation, nail polish, hair brush. Ask husband to help. Husband is buried under pillows and cannot hear me. End up moving my pre-work preparations to main bathroom so I can keep an eye on child, who I hope will play with one of his gazillions of toys so that I can get ready for work. Child wants to stay with Daddy. Tell child that Daddy is sleeping. Mumble that Daddy is a lucky bastard.

0715 – Am finally ready for work. Pack child’s bag for child care. Cannot find child’s beloved Beebie (sleep toy) and commence frantic search around the house. Find Beebie snugly tucked up next to snoring husband. Grind teeth.

0730 – Dog barks again at innocent passers-by walking their (well behaved) dog. Again yell at dog. Tidy up remnants of toast scattered around the lounge room, and take toast leftovers to dog outside. Pat dog and tell him he is an idiot but we love him. Realise I am getting rained on while doing this. Hair ruined. Consider wearing baseball cap to work.

0740 – Husband tells me he is staying home from work today. Kiss husband goodbye and tell him to drink water. Husband is barely visible in bed due to ample coverage of doonas and pillows. He looks so comfortable and cosy which of course makes me full of rage. Consider suffocating him in a fit of anger but realise I need him to help me raise our growing brood of children. Leave him to sleep.

0745 – Try to get child to brush his teeth, but instead watch as he smears toothpaste all over one of his trains. Take toothbrush off child. Child cries.

0750 – Juggle child, child’s bag and my handbag and make mad dash to the car. No spare hands for umbrella. Child hates car. Child protests as I attempt to restrain him in his car seat. Child cries again. Very close to joining him.

0755 – Arrive at child care. Hope and pray that one of the educators from child’s usual room have arrived so that I can leave him with a familiar face. Prayers unanswered. Instead, child holds onto my leg and demands that I sit and play cars with him. I comply. Eventually one of child’s favourite carers arrives. He runs to her for a cuddle. I wonder if I could do the same. Kiss child goodbye. Bye bye mummy! he says, waving. Love his delicious little face, even if he can be a royal turd.

0810 – Am now trapped in the thick of peak hour traffic. Asshole in a van will not let me change lanes to gain access to freeway. Have lights flashed at me by enormous truck approaching me from behind. What does truck expect me to do? Turn 14 year old Corolla into a small aircraft and fly over unhelpful lane-blocking van? Swear and rant loudly, eventually pushing in front of van.

0815 – Am cut off on freeway by BMW driver with a personalised plate saying “BOSS”. Mutter special four letter curse word reserved only for driving. Rain is so bad I am now following BOSS’s tail lights and hoping for the best. Windows starting to fog due to Corolla’s temperamental airconditioning. Need to make choice between having a clear windscreen and freezing, or having a fogged windscreen and warmth. Opt to freeze.

work photo 1

0830 – Arrive at work. Catch woollen cardigan on car door as I try to extract myself from vehicle. Swear again. See male colleague I know in carpark and do a snappy trigger hand gesture at him to say hello. Realise as I get closer that I do not know this man. Suspect that this stranger now thinks he was cracked onto by horny pregnant woman. Cringe. Arrive at desk.

photo 2

0835 – Discover 15 emails in inbox, all urgent. Realise I haven’t had breakfast. Leave urgent emails in search of urgent food. Return to desk and hear single, male, childless colleague complaining about how tired he is. Apparently he just couldn’t get comfortable in bed last night. Want to stab him in the eye with my pen.

0900 – Attend meeting. Am barely awake and long for coffee, but the smell of it makes me want to hurl. Soon realise I can smell the coffee of the bloke sitting next to me. Start breathing through my mouth. Look like a panting dog.

1100 – Dangerously close to vomiting. Go in search of more food to keep nausea at bay. Don’t want to eat junk food but nothing of nutritional value is appealing to me. End up buying a Summer Roll. Reassure myself that coconut is healthy.

1200 – Can smell sausage rolls from my desk. Hate the smell of sausage rolls. Discover smell is emanating from a nearby work colleague eating lunch at his desk. Decide he is an inconsiderate prick who I should hit over the head with my keyboard. Infer that it is possible that pregnancy hormones are increasing my irritability.

1300 – Call husband. No answer. Wonder if he is still asleep. Consider doing a George Costanza and hiding under my desk for a nap but do not have a chance – am instead asked to complete more urgent work for another urgent meeting about an urgent matter. Sounds urgent.

1400 – Husband calls back. He was in shower and is feeling a bit better. Good for him. Tell him I am losing the will to live.

1500 – Attend urgent meeting. Discover months of work have been for naught, as proposals we opposed have just been announced as soon to be implemented by government. Put head in hands. Decide to take non-consultative government down from the inside by sleeping on the job.

photo 3

1600 – Discover I have had toothpaste on my dress all day. Child must have wiped his minty little hands on me as I was bundling him into the car. Prospects of climbing the corporate ladder seem slim. I decide I am too tired to be ambitious anyway.

1650 – Try to leave work. Am bailed up by colleague who is keen for a chat. I am keen to lie down. Eventually escape after 10 minutes of agonising small talk. Realise I need food for drive home, lest I throw up in the car. Have no money on me. Go to convenience store near work and buy a Who magazine and a muesli bar using EFTPOS. Shake my head as I leave wondering when I will ever have time to sit and read a Who magazine.

1715 – Battle peak hour traffic home again, in even more rain. Seven kilometre journey takes almost 50 minutes. Groan loudly.

1800 – Arrive home. Son and husband are playing on the floor and watching television. Cuddle and kiss them both. Want to collapse into bed but now need to make dinner. Frantically peel and cut vegetables and throw them into a saucepan with stock to make soup. Child is underneath my feet, demanding bikkie! Husband has already given child two bikkies. Tell child he has to wait until after dinner for bikkie number three. Child cries. Swear at husband.

1830 – Serve dinner to boys. Biggest boy is still sniffling and gratefully inhales my tasty soup. Smallest boy announces yucky! as soon as the bowl of soup is placed in front of him, and tries to tip it out. Catch bowl just in time. Try to reason with child that he has to try soup before deciding it’s yucky. He is not interested. Toast?  he asks. Give child toast. Again.

1845 – Guzzle my own (now cold) soup while child attempts to put his hands in my bowl. Offer child an apple. He takes two bites then gives it to me to finish. Tell myself child has now eaten a serving of fruit for the day. Feel better about my parenting.

1900 – Bath time. Child going through annoying phase of hating bath. Feel like child hates everything at the moment (except toast). Put child in bath. Child screams and cries, and will not sit down. Child begins to stamp his feet, which means chances of slipping over and cracking his head open are significantly increased. End up stripping off and getting in bath with child to hold him still. Consider concussing myself on purpose just to get a nap.

1915 – Husband removes child from bath and wraps him in a clean soft towel. I get no towel and am dripping wet. Child announces Poo, poo! Husband takes child back to bathroom to sit on toilet while I try to find a towel for myself. Child screams when put on toilet. Husband takes him off. Child screams when taken off toilet. Husband puts him back on. I consider checking into a hotel for the night.

1920 – Husband gets child dressed for bed and I throw on trackies and an oversized grey t-shirt with GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM! written on it. Wonder if husband still finds me attractive. Decide to ask him later.

1930 – Husband and I read book after book to child, who is now happily guzzling warm milk in bed, snuggling Beebie close. This is child’s favourite time of the day. I lie down next to child in bed, and cuddle up to his soft little face. Child pulls away as he cannot see the book properly. Sigh.

2000 – Husband leaves child’s room to bring crazy barking nut of a dog inside to our bedroom. I turn child’s bedroom lights off and kiss him goodnight. Child is still thrashing around on his bed like a giant fish and refusing to sleep. I lie next to him in the dark, patting his back and saying comforting words like shhhh and deep breaths. Child is eventually quiet. He is nearly asleep, as am I. We are jolted awake by the sound of a sneeze coming from the lounge room. Daddy go atchoo! child announces, now wide awake again. Curse Husband’s inability to muffle sneezes. Start to foam at the mouth.

2030 – Child is finally asleep. I tip-toe out of his room. Now have a chance for a shower of my own. Happily take my time enjoying steam, suds, silence. My peaceful moment ends abruptly when my hot shower starts to lose heat. Realise that husband has turned on the dishwasher. Frantically wash conditioner out of hair as hot water turns cold. Have never wanted a drink more in my life.

2100 – Husband asks if I want to watch a movie. Is he out of his mind? It is 9pm!

2130 – Realise I haven’t had my daily vitamin tablet, again. Every time I have it, it makes me want to vomit. Eat three choc chip cookies, take tablet, and then eat another cookie for good measure. Feel okay. Tablet should stay down.

2135 – Throw up cookies and tablet. Decide this is the perfect time to ask Husband if he still finds me attractive. He diplomatically touches my arm and says Well, you have been vomiting a lot of late. I have no comeback. Drag myself to bed while husband watches Fox Footy.

2140 – Quickly check Facebook and see status updates that annoy me. Decide to block/de-friend a number of people. Wonder if I am being irrational. Too tired to think straight.

2200 – Husband comes to bed. It is still raining and cold, so dog is sleeping in our bedroom tonight. Dog jumps up on the bed and lands on my ankle. Swear loudly. Tell dog to get off bed. Dog happily prances around bedroom, making sleep impossible due to jingling sound of his collar. Beg him to lie down.

2210 – Lights out. Cuddle up to husband. Eventually roll over to get ready for sleep. Oh how I have longed for this moment.

2220 – Husband starts to snore.

2225 – Husband continues to snore. Hit him. Hard.

2300 – Husband banished to spare room. He can sleep with the laundry.

2330– Finally get some peace and quiet. Will enjoy every blissful moment of it, until I am inevitably woken at 1am, needing to pee again.

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