‘Home is where our story begins.’ As long as I can remember I have loved ‘home.’ Home to me is where love resides, memories are made, friends always belong and families are forever. I emigrated to Australia from England in 1969 as a child of 5years of age with my parents, older sister and young brother. Apparently I didn’t want to leave my English home as I hid myself in the large pantry a few weeks before our departure causing my parents, grandparents and friends to call out a search party for me. I was in there for several hours while my parents panicked and thought the worst. I have strong memories of childhood in England. In my mind I’m taken back to the days of summer spending time with family at the beach hut. I remember the smell as we opened the doors to the hut at the beginning of the new season. A distinct smell of holidays, ocean, seaweed, plastic buckets and spades, and rubber thongs (flip flops – they are called in UK) so many vivid colourful images taking my mind on a road down memory lane.
We spent 6 weeks travelling from the UK to Australia on our new temporary floating ‘home’ on the Fair Star. I can remember having a ceremony on the ship when we crossed the equator with a man dressing up as King Neptune. I didn’t like attending the school on the boat and hated the cream of chicken soup we were offered for tea. But I liked being rewarded with chocolate for babysitting my brother Stephen in the locked cabin while mum, dad and Trish joined a party. What mischief was I going to get up too? Nothing!
Our feet touched Australian soil in Sydney and we joined other families in a hostel in Marrickville. Dad was busy trying to find work in a strange new land while mum looked after us in our new ‘home’ and cooked in the large communal kitchen where it smelled so different from anything I’ve ever smelt before. All the different cultures sharing the kitchen all cooking their traditional fare with spices, flavours and sauces that made our sense of smell go into over-drive.
Dad found a job which enabled us to rent a flat a street away from the iconic beautiful beach Cronulla and that’s the reason why our family are stout ‘sharkies’ supporters – go the ‘black, white & blue.’ Renting wasn’t the dream dad had for his young family so we travelled on his days off to find a block of land to call home. Mount Warrigal – with the Indigenous name ‘ native dog hill’ caught his eye. A home was built from scratch out of wood & bricks and proudly stood over-looking the beautiful Lake Illawarra. This was my wonderful family ‘home’ for 17 years where the bulk of my childhood memories took place. A time where I dressed up in fancy dress with neighbourhood kids, make cubby-houses in the bushes on the top of the hill, went fishing off the jetty, prawning, sailing boats in my neighbours fish pond, pretending my bed was a boat on rainy days, saving my pocket money to buy fireworks to share with friends to let off on the long weekend in June at a huge bonfire all the neighbourhood kids built together. In this ‘home’ I learnt our first lesson in loss, sadness and heartache as a child. The loss of our first pet – a dog called ‘Bitsy.’ These lessons in life have to be taught sometime. During the time in that house the happiness outweighed the sadness by a long shot. I moved out of this home when I became a wife and began a new chapter of happily ever after.
Pete and I loved our brand new little home we’d made together. I dream at night of that home so often where we move back in with the same warm, fuzzy emotions as we had when we lived there. It was a house that was built on fertile soil as we were blessed with 4 pregnancies, although when we found out we were having Jacob we weren’t living there, but he was conceived in our little of love house on the lower side of the street. My sister Trish had bought a house nearby and we could both stand in our backyards and waved at each other.
As the saying goes, new house new baby, and Jacob was the baby. We were in need of a bigger house for our expanding family and we stumbled upon a beauty. A home by the same lake I was blessed to have grown up by, and only a few streets away from where my parents still live in the magical house I grew up in. This was the perfect ‘home’ for us. It’s hard to believe how much emotion, memories and love can be held in one ‘home.’ Birthdays, Christmases, Easters, sleepovers, pool parties, the run of the mill happenings with a young family. Jacob was our only baby that was brought home from hospital into our new home by the lake. It was in this very house where he took his last breath surrounded by 19 people – family and friends. The love in the room at that moment was palpable.
I’m sitting in the family room writing this here story, in the very room where Jacob passed away. I feel connected to him as I glance around the room at all the little things that belong to him on several shelves. I feel at home here.
As I look back on my life I’ve been lucky to have had the feeling of being at ‘home’ in many places. Throughout my life even if I had a sleep over at a friends house I always felt at ‘home.’ I can relate to Paul Young’s words in his song- wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home. But it would be more effective for me to say – ‘that wherever I lay my head that’s my home. I’m like an illusion of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz – ‘there’s no place like home’ as I click my heels together and replay the moving pictures of my life inside my head.
The more I look into the meaning of ‘home’ it becomes clearer that it is way much more that just the walls, floor and shelter. Your home should tell the story of who you are and be a collection of what you love. I was first introduced to the song that will accompany this blog called ‘that home’ by my son Ben’s beautiful girlfriend Paige. I can remember her singing the song by The Cinematic Orchestra, as she played our piano at a time in our lives that was changing forever. She made our old out of tune piano sounds musical again. ‘There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls and window sills
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
This is a place where I don’t feel alone
This is a place where I feel at home
‘Cause, I built a home