Over the past few days I have been having the most powerful memories from my childhood. It’s not that this has never happened before, it’s just that over the past 16 years I have spent most of my time living in an environment where most of the memories I had were new ones. Now that we have finally arrived in Australia, and have stopped moving, I have found enough room in my cluttered mind for reflection… and contemplation. I have never before felt a yearning for Benalla (my hometown). Even when I lived here my mind was focused on thoughts of travel, living overseas. Wandering around town early this morning I looked upon scenes from my childhood with new eyes, older eyes, and found myself in a state of deep contentment. The streets were empty save for a few hardy souls making the first attempts at honest work. The houses where all solid, homely structures full of staid and permanent things like mature trees, tire swings… and utes. The whole environment spoke of settled lives. Inside the houses I imagined the occupants sitting down to breakfasts like bacon and eggs, or peaches on their Wheaties and Vegemite toast. These were the streets of people who chose a life akin to my upbringing, and also a life that I now desired beyond all others. I envied them so!
It’s funny how travel can make you yearn for a settled life. It must be all the packing and unpacking that does it! Or perhaps it’s the constant bag of dirty underwear confronting you each time you search through your bag for a lollipop. After almost four months of constant moving, the last four days have been spent in stagnant bliss. Returning to a home base has also allowed us to initiate change (or progress) in our child rearing duties. It would be fair to say that this has not been a priority over the past four months; when your two-year old is screaming in a Greek Taverna you are not greatly motivated to seize the opportunity to enact a learning experience. Our technique was to grab the iPad, plop it in front of the kid, and encourage her to “Watch Sid until Mommy and Daddy finish their wine.” These new changes are also ways to have the kid look forward to new horizons. We have been promising Lily that upon arrival at Grandma’s she will be able to sleep in a “big girl bed.” Walking through the door of my mother’s house at two o’clock in the morning, it was all we could do to get Lily into her pajamas before she leapt into her new bed… it had pink butterfly sheets, you see!
But far more important than hometown memories is the return to family. Despite my 16 years overseas the rest of my family has remained in Australia. Every day events, like morning coffee and cake with family and friends hold an almost ridiculous level of priority to my familial-starved psyche. Sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles all welcome us home with open arms, and after so long away from their embraces and wonderfully casual conversations, it is like cocaine to a wall-street-trader… I’m in. Small towns also breed informal meetings on the street, unannounced visits for coffee (seriously I am averaging 8 cups a day) and the prospect of that most Australian of social events, the barbeque. Americans call it grilling, South Africans a Bra’ai. The English don’t do anything of the sort, preferring to roll up some limp fish and soggy peas in an old newspaper and bitch about the weather. In one form or another all carry the common parallel of searing some meat on a piece of metal with questionable hygienic standards. Oh, and a beer is good as well.
I’m sure it will only take a few months before I begin to feel that familiar itch, the nagging need to throw a few clothes into a backpack and shoot off to a foreign county and have another adventure. But for now forging a new life in Australia is going to be adventure enough. Possibilities are open for us, and so many years away have engendered a new fascination with the culture of my home country. Short footy shorts, Blundstones, “drinking a few cold cans of piss”, and snags are my fascination again, and I will pursue them as I did rancid shark opportunities in Iceland. Travel will always be a major focus of my life, but in between adventures… I like a comfy bed, hot shower and cozy couch to read on as much as the next guy.