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