Tuesday, January 25, 2011
When Home is... the love of windows
Installing a bay window as part of our mini-renovation has led me back to my childhood suburb. While we can’t stay in our home while our bathroom is replaced – yes, I know others have and used the builders’ site toilet, showered with a camp shower and all that but I chose not to be so adventurous – we are staying in my grandfather’s home. After he died, it was decided that the house should stay in the family as a base for relatives who don’t live in Sydney, and conveniently now for a bathroom-less granddaughter and her family of five.
So here we are. Around the corner from the house where I grew up, down the hill from the local chemist where I worked on Saturday mornings aged 14 and the newsagency where I worked during my HSC year.
I’ve only returned here intermittently since moving away when I was 19, so it feels very odd to be living here again. All the shopkeepers have changed, but the shops have stayed the same. There are substantially bigger houses and more 4WDs than in my day but the eerie feeling of de je vu follows me around every street corner. And never more so than when I walk passed our old family home.
We lived on a street that is a bit of a dogleg around other more direct roads, yet I find myself following its bends and slowing down outside the house no matter what direction we are travelling in.
The house has changed a little in the last 16 years. The pine trees my parents planted in the front garden are no longer and there is now a large garage in the once gravelled driveway. But the back paling fence, the pink oleander hedge and the brass plaque on the back gate warning of a dog remains as though we’d never left.
Yet, what catches me every time I look at the house is my old bedroom window. High up in the attic, my bedroom was a haven for a teenager – far away from everyone else – and the wide window its focal point. The three leadlights were on the side of the house and I spent many hours on the window seat beneath it reading Dolly magazine and Sweet Valley High books, studying, looking down the driveway of the boy who lived across the road (who turned out to be gay but neither of us realised this at 15) and chatting to friends on the cordless phone.
I haven’t thought much about those years until this week and today, as I notice those windows open, I wonder who now inhabits that bedroom. Is it another teenager who feels suffocated in suburbia and spends hours on that seat dreaming of the big wide world that waits outside those windows?
And will she find herself, years from now, wishing for another large window and window seat where she will still want to sit and dream?