Wednesday, April 27, 2011

When Home is... One You Once Lived In

I know we’ve talked about revisiting childhood homes and fantasy homes but we haven’t talked about revisiting a home you once lived in as an adult. This thought struck me yesterday as we accidentally revisited one such home and I was surprised by the emotions it conjured. Well, actually I was surprised by the lack of any emotions.

We took the kids to the Museum – a good rainy day solution for the end of a long weekend – and parked in a nearby side street. We parked about three doors up from a flat Stuart and I once rented before we were married but neither of us mentioned this as we got everyone out of the car. It was raining and the museum was in the opposite direction.

On the way back to the car we walked down the hill, passed this old flat, to get coffee.

‘Look kids’, I said pointing across the road, ‘see that tiny balcony near the top of that tree?’

‘Um yeah’, said Lily squinting slightly.

‘What tree?’ asked Ned looking in the opposite direction.

‘Banana bread’, said Louis pointing down the hill towards the cafe strip.

‘Well, mummy and daddy once lived there.’ I said, not quite believing it.

‘What’s with those purple curtains?’ asked Stuart as he turned to walk away.

Everyone walked on quietly. I wondered why I didn’t feel happy or nostalgic seeing that little Juliet balcony again. We only lived there for six months but a lot happened during that time: Stuart proposed, I found my first job in book publishing, we’d just returned from a big overseas trip and the future had really changed direction. It was a good time; fun to live in the middle of the city and work there too. Yet none of those memories came flooding back as we stood outside the building.

‘What number house was it?’ asked Lily as we got to the cafe.

‘Ummm. I have no idea,’ I said and looked at Stuart. He shrugged his shoulders.

As we walked back to the car, we stopped outside the building so Lily could see the number.

‘There you go, you lived at number 17,’ she smiled.

‘That must mean we were unit 6,’ said Stuart as he looked at the side door we used to enter through. Still, those numbers meant absolutely nothing to me.

‘Well, there you go,’ I said, ‘you guys weren’t even born when we lived here. Isn’t that strange?’

‘I’m glad I never lived here,’ replied Ned, ‘this hill is too steep for me. I can’t make it up to the car.’ He started whining.

Lily and Louis were already up at the car, ready for home. Their home, not this strange little balcony in this inner city street.

Perhaps while our homes shape us they also don’t become us. While they can be an external expression of who we were at a particular stage of our lives, we don’t need to recognise them in the same way we recognise old friends or distant relatives. We don’t need those buildings to remind us of the person we were then... and that, for some reason, surprises me.

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