Monday, July 19, 2010

When Home is... a Fairytale



One upon a time, in a land not so far away, there were two 18-year-old girls. On the cusp of adulthood, in their first year at university, these two best friends had bonded over a shared reading of Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room. Enjoying their Women’s Studies option in their Sociology course, they were ready to take on the world. For university was opening their eyes, just as it had for Mira, the main character in The Women’s Room. Although thankfully neither of them had to play the part of a submissive wife in a traditional 1950s marriage before their own feminist awakenings.

No, for these two best friends the future was bright and full of opportunity and independence. They began meeting at a cafe in a well-heeled area of Sydney, not at all near where either of them lived, and after coffee one wintry Sunday afternoon they took a walk around the streets peering at the beautiful old sandstone homes and large front gardens.

Then they saw it: a rambling old two story house on a corner block. Smoke puffing out of the chimney, a standard lamp lit behind an armchair by a window. There was a huge old tree in the middle of the front garden with a child’s swing hanging from it, rose bushes and gardenias bordering the old brick wall.

Or perhaps it was a white picket fence for this house seemed to suddenly represent their picket fence dream; one they didn’t realise they had... oh, the irony. They were spellbound.

From that day on, conversations over coffee centred around the perfect life of that house and the imagined perfect family who lived there. After each coffee there would be a quick walk past or – memorably – one night a drive by. What luck, the front door was open! Candles flickered on a small table against a wall, there was much laughter inside and a beautifully dressed woman in high heels walked past the door carrying a steaming coffee plunger. Following just behind was an attractive man in an open necked shirt carrying a bottle of red and a corkscrew. In the split second the girls saw him they thought of Michael Douglas in his prime. Yes, this was the home they wanted.

Behind that front door lay the perfect life; they were sure of it.

*********

I’ve driven past that house a few times in the years since I was 18 and I’m pretty sure my friend has too. For me now, it just looks like a house; an attractive one full of character but still just bricks and mortar. The powerful emotions we both attached to it have disappeared – thankfully – but it fascinates me how that house symbolised so strongly the emotions of what we felt home represented.

Yet houses don’t have emotions, do they? They don’t own our memories or our secrets; they can’t be responsible for our relationships with our partners or our children; our happy moments or our sad times. Home is created within us and our houses simply bear witness.

And yes, it must also be said that the irony of our youthful feminist ideals intermingling with a young Michael Douglas on our arm still makes us both laugh hysterically.

Fuzzy felt picture by Lily Leece

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh my god, you have me laughing and crying at the same time!! How could I ever forget those womens room bonding sessions over coffee and a pastry snail, and that perfect house on the corner where we imagined the perfect family lived. We were so young and hopeful, and a little naive, but strong women at heart! I love the way you go to great lengths to emphasize that it was a "young" micheal douglas in our fantasy, as opposed to a current post facelift one! xxxxx

Germaine Leece said...

Yes, it was definitely Michael in his Fatal Attraction days! I know we agreed to take those days of stalking to our graves but nevermind...

Anonymous said...

Mine is ... A Victorian (or was it Regency?) terrace, in a row facing Primrose Hill in London, with a Victorian wooden rocking horse standing in the floor to ceiling bay window. I often walked past after work, on my way to visit friends nearby. Decades later I remember it well and wonder if 'my' beautiful rocking horse is still looking out onto the park ... I hope so.

Claire said...

Now I want to see the house, and have strong words with you about MIchael Douglas - pre or post face lift!! I have a couple of houses around Sydney that I love - and sadly one's just gone up for auction so I can't see it being back on the market when we can finally buy.. oh well. In the end you can make any house a home.

norab said...

This made me think of a house I coveted in my 20's. It was a few doors up from where my boyfriend (now hubby) and I were living (in a one-bedroom apartment with a wardrobe prone to mould and a shared coin-operated washing machine that was always filled with someone else's wet towels). We often walked past the double fronted federation dream house and made comments about the family who lived there - whom we dubbed "The Perfects". There was a mother and a father - always impeccably dressed - and two lovely looking children, a boy and a girl. Now, with a family of my own, I realise that "The Perfects" could not have been as perfect as we imagined. On the other hand, in my memory that house still remains pretty perfect...

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