She’s leaving home

After 40 years of living in the same place, I’m moving out. I’m not going far, a little over two kilometres away. But still it will be a different kind of life. Not better, not worse just different.

Until recently building a house hasn’t been all that stressful. You’re not 100% sure what’s going on but you turn up and there’s stuff like walls or tiles. And one day there’s your home and it’s maybe not exactly what you imagined when you choose your colour scheme a year ago but still it’s full of possibilities and it’s shiny, bright and new.

A few people have asked me what it feels like to be leaving home after 40 years. To be honest, it feels like possibilities and change, and asking myself who am I really? I’m not sad, I’m not moving far enough away to be sad.

In many ways my life won’t change, I’ll still walk the same streets, go to the same places and see the same people. What will be different is me and my address. And yet everything will change.

I’ve lived with my parents a long time, well past the age most people move out. Why I never did is complicated. When I was at an age where you think about doing that – things happened. I felt I needed to be here.

Even after those times passed, the uncertainty about my life – what I wanted to do, contract jobs, study and a million other things were all reasons to stay. The irony of my current situation – being between jobs – and moving out isn’t lost on me.

When I reflect, this place, my home, was the one sure thing in my life. It was safe. I’ve often wondered what kind of life I’d have had if I’d been a little braver and left. I’ll never know and what good are those thoughts anyway?

So this has been home, it’s changed in 40 years, and it yet it is as familiar to me as my own skin. My body memory of walking the same hallway or across the kitchen floor means that even if I was blind, I could still find my way around.

Once Mum and Dad moved the dinner table half-a-metre closer to the centre of the room. They told me they’d done it but going to bed one night with the lights out, I crashed into it because my footsteps automatically took the path I’d taken thousands of times before.

There’s a mark on the wall in the hallway, where when we were younger, one of my sisters threw a carrot at my other sister who was being annoying. We used to joke – what are you going to do throw a carrot? There are other marks too but how they got there are long since forgotten.

My Dad built our back porch. It had steel poles holding up the roof,  and because this was the 80s, the poles were a horrendous pink colour. These were referred to by the family as the poofy pink poles.

When Halley’s Comet visited when I was 9 or so, I remember standing on the porch and leaning against those poles watching it through binoculars. I still have vivid memories of that tail and how wonderful it was.

Sometime in the 1990s we put an extension on the house, this gave us a whole area and meant we didn’t need to watch TV with our parents. This was the era of the X-Files and Buffy, Monkey Magic and Press Gang. This has been my space almost exclusively since everyone moved out and has made living here as long as I have possible.

My bedroom has been the same for too many years. We were never really allowed to do posters on walls and I removed any remnants of childhood long ago. It was once a place to get away, now I usually just use it for sleep and storing clothes and books (so many many books).

It’s too small for a big bed, so my first purchase was a queen size antique wrought iron bed. It’s going to have so much space and way too many pillows that I think I’ll love but which I will probably resent when I’m making my bed every morning.

The 40 years I’ve spent in my current home feels like forever and yet no time at all. Here I’ve watched sisters move out, get married, have children; build careers and homes of their own. We are all older and yet essentially the same.

Time and memory are strange, I don’t remember most of the almost 15000 days I’ve lived here. These have been mundane, just ordinary days in an ordinary life. Some days though are seared into my memory but overall I’ve been luckier than most.

I have not always been happy here. Living within the boundaries of someone else’s life is hard. The operation of the home forms an integral part of how you live and sometimes that’s different to your natural inclination. Mostly its been a real gift to get to know my parents as an adult. And there is the added bonus of being able to come home after work and having dinner made and ready.

One question that I’ve asked myself during the preparation to move out, is the house the home or the people. I think it’s both. Houses hold memories like imprints, perhaps this is why you get a vibe when you go into someone’s place. But without the people, it’s just brick, wood and plaster.

What vibe would a stranger get from this place? A family home where there has been great love and good people or something else? Maybe they’d just see the flaws, the slightly old-fashioned layout rather than what it’s been to us as a family.

As I write this memories of fun times, pop into my mind. My sisters and I playing Atari together. Dad buying us a new TV so we could watch Kieran Perkins swim in 1992 Olympics. The first family computer with five-and-a-half floppy discs, which was for school work but which we played a game called Braminar on.

This place has provided protection and warmth from the world where I often felt out of place. It’s offered the comfort of family who love you despite all things. It’s been wonderful but I’ve stayed too long, I’m ready to start something new.

Moving out after 40 years is both exciting and daunting. Things will be different now and those changes will take time to sort themselves out. I feel excited about creating something that’s uniquely mine and for all the millions of possibilities that now seem before me.

But maybe I’m not really leaving home as much as moving address. After all the 40 years of love and comfort I’ve had here I’ll be taking with me and winding it into the rhythms and spaces of my new home.

Please note: I would like to acknowledge my house is built on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to Wurundjeri elders past, present and future.