Here's me at 12.
I remember this day distinctly.
Mum was having my portrait done in order to capture the last days of my childhood. Soon I'd be a young lady (or so she hoped...lol!), and those days would be behind us. I think she timed it well.
I didn't particularly like this dress. It was chocolate brown, with red and yellow flowers, and rather plain. I wanted to wear my Sunday best, which was cream and had lace sleeves. The photographer wisely advised this one to give the photo some depth.
I am the eldest and was happy in my role as head babysitter and only child in our family of seven to have a bedroom all to themselves. Oh, the sheer luxury of decorating a whole room with your own stuff was indescribable. Having a real bedside table and a lamp by which to read was a special thing for a bookworm too.
I remember that room fondly. Our home was a big airy Colonial, with fretwork above the doors, brass doorknobs throughout, and linoleum on the floors. I loved my room because it was in the front corner of the house, had coloured panels in the casement windows, and lovely polished floorboards. It was very much like this....
There was a poster of a fabulous fairy in blue tones on the wall, and a white rayon quilted bedspread with yellow roses embroidered on it, and the curtains almost matched. The flowers on the curtains were pink though, and try as she might, Mum was unable to source the matching fabric with yellow roses embroidered on it. For some reason that was important to me and it caused me angst. I've always had an odd sense of order, and it offended my eye to not have yellow roses on my curtains. I eventually graduated to a chenille bedspread, and finally to a purple faux fur one. I never said my taste improved as I grew older...lol!
That first bedspread was a bit like this....
The strangest thing is that I dream of this house regularly when we really only lived there for a few short years. It was a rented house, and Mum bought elsewhere, not too far away. Clearly it was a happy time for us there. It was a lovely leafy neighbourhood, we had a macadamia tree to climb, a lemon tree, orange tree, mulberry tree, mango tree and passionfruit vine to raid, and a sloping back yard where we'd roll over and over down the hill to the bottom fence on hot Summers afternoons just to amuse ourselves. We'd also swing on the Hills Hoist rotary clothesline, like the one pictured below, and that would cause a ruckus for sure, because we weren't supposed to. But the slope of the yard meant that there was this heavenly moment as you pushed off to swing, when your feet seemed suspended in mid air forever.
There was no 'landscaping' by the way. Just grass and trees. Balls and hula hoops.
We didn't have a lot of money, but we never really wanted for anything. A chunk of chilled watermelon and iceblocks in plastic tubes in Summer, steaming mugs of Ovaltine and piles of hot buttered toast in Winter, and lots of love and hugs. That's why friends gathered at our home. Everyone was accepted and valued, fed and watered, soothed and counselled. Mum was clever like that.
At least half a dozen times a year, I dream of this house. Its long, cool, dark hallway, with bedrooms branching off to each side. The coloured leadlight windows displaying patterns on the floor in the setting sun. The long bank of open windows along the back of the house, where the kitchen and dining room were, and where Mum would lean out and call 'Dinners ready', because we'd still be in the back yard, cracking nuts with a brick in a groove in the concrete, or playing Tiggy or What's the Time Mr Wolf.
We'd all pound up the long back staircase, and wash our hands, say Grace (usually Thankyou for the world so sweet, thankyou for the food we eat, thankyou for the birds that sing, thankyou Lord for everything...Ahhhh-men), and eat our meal nicely, using our best manners and always asking 'may I please leave the table' when done. Heck, who even does that any more? There's an interesting article about why you should say Grace even if you're not religious here.
Strangely, to this day, when I'm roused from these dreams, I always wake with a strange sense of contentment and yes, a teensy bit of longing.
I've tried hard to replicate that home, because it was a 'home' in the true sense of the word. But it was a moment in time, comprised of a place, a way of life, and a very different 'normal' to the one we live now.
But 'contentment' I can strive for. Contentment, tranquillity, a feeling of being somewhere that's a safe place to land, where no matter what happens, someone still loves you.
That I can do. That's pretty much what my older sons remember about 'home'. It's what I remember about 'home'. I think I can manage that.
Here's my final thoughts, a few key words, a few randomly expressed memories, on that home of my childhood.
Safe, warm, welcoming, content, simple, enveloping, love, fun, friends, baking, pets, peace, quiet, cool, airy, casual, laughing, cubby house, go-kart, mulberry pie, lemons and sugar, bonfires, pressed flowers, inflatable wading pool, Reef tanning oil, Camay soap, Avon Crème Conditioner, jam donuts, fresh hot bread, tinsel Christmas tree, Easter Egg hunt, marshmallows with toasted coconut, toffees with sprinkles or coconut on top, knitting baby bootees, crocheting afghan squares, sewing sundresses, making barefoot sandals and raffia dolls, Mum .
That's what I remember.