Having brothers

A few weeks ago, I went to stay with my family for a week in Canberra. I arrived the night before my parents were due back from a six-week overseas trip, and my two brothers picked me up at the airport. Every time I see them together now, I’m struck by how strange it is that my little bros are adult men. One of them has a beard, even. They’re both taller than I am, and I’m very aware that if I were ever to push at either of them, like I might have when we were kids, I would lose. (Actually, I tried this once, jokingly, a few years ago. I ended up falling into a bush when the inevitable playful shove back came.)

The next morning, I had several hours with just my two brothers before we were due to pick our travelling parents up from the airport, and I realised later that it was the first time in years the three of us had been alone together. One of the things I love most about my brothers is that we somehow seem to get the balance of seriousness and silliness just right when we spend time together. That morning, we stood together in my parents’ half-finished new kitchen drinking coffee and making breakfast, alternately talking about the big stuff in our lives and engaging in silly banter and giggling. (And I insisted on taking pictures of our feet.)

Kitchen feet

Somewhere in that time, we decided that it would be hysterically funny if we managed to get ourselves taken away by airport security just as Mum and Dad walked through the arrivals gate. The amusement came in some strange way from the idea that, as we were taken away, we’d be able to yell out at our parents: “Look what happens when you leave us alone!” Which, actually, was probably a weird way of us being able to talk about how much we’d all missed Mum and Dad, and how much we were looking forward to seeing them. Warped, I know.

So the car trip to the airport was spent discussing in great detail the different ways we could get the attention of airport security, and what we’d have to do to get them to take us into custody. There were plenty of options, but the one we seemed to keep coming back to was starting a fist fight. Which I was sure to lose, I now realise.

The night before, we’d been to the supermarket and picked up a couple of Mars Bars as a welcome home present for our parents (a family in-joke). When we got to the terminal, we realised we’d left them in the car. It became a matter of great importance that someone go back to the car to get the chocolate bars, but also a point of contention as to who that should be and whether it would mean that person would miss out on the all important moment of arrival/taking away. This could spell disaster for our plan. It had been a foggy morning, and it was likely that the plane would have been delayed, so the older of my two brothers decided he’d take a gamble and make a run for the car. The younger and I decided we’d go to the arrivals gate itself.

It turned out that the running had been completely unnecessary, because the flight had indeed been delayed. We waited near the arrivals gate, watching the sun rise higher in the sky. As we waited, we brainstormed the timing of our ridiculous welcome plan. How could we make sure that we were apprehended at precisely the right moment?

Airport feet

Waiting at the same gate for someone arriving on the same plane were three young men dressed in different animal suits, and we chastised ourselves for not acquiring a crocodile onesie each. Perhaps an animal suit would have been a more appropriate way of making a big deal out of our parents’ arrival.

When the plane finally landed, we stood by the windows watching to see if our parents would cross the tarmac, or use the aerobridge. We bickered vaguely about where we should stand when they came out at the gate. At the last minute, we abandoned all plans to get the attention of airport security, and hoped that the Mars Bars would be enough of a welcome.

Mum and Dad entered the airport at the same time as the friend of the three blokes in animal suits. Our parents noticed us first, of course, but the onesies and animal heads were hard to miss.

“Why didn’t you guys dress up like that?” Dad said.

“Why are they dressed up like that?” Mum said.

We handed them the Mars Bars.

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Breaking

This week I’ve taken (mostly) a break. After last week’s adrenaline-fueled activity, doing very little this week has felt… well, actually, it’s felt a little like breaking. Taking a break has given me space to break a little. And I think that’s a good thing.

But I’m interested in how closely related those two things are — stopping, and falling apart a little, that is. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the word ‘break’ covers both. My body is sore and bruised and tired from all the moving of belongings. I’ve got back into a more energetic yoga practice this week, and noticed that tiredness more than anything else. My flexibility and strength don’t appear to have changed all that much after a week or so of only restorative yoga, but just how much my body’s willing or able to do has changed quite a lot. There’s just not a lot of energy there.

It’s funny, I often notice the effects of stress as fatigue in my physical body before I notice that I’m feeling it emotionally. Yesterday, my arms didn’t quite want to hold me up in poses they normally have no trouble with, and my legs were wobbly where they wouldn’t normally be. I had to stop for a while quite a lot. My body was relieved when I finally lay down on the floor to rest at the end. Then last night I finally cracked and cried about some of the logistical issues we’re having with the move. And I realised that what I was crying about was not just the particular worries from yesterday, but about all the worries that are associated with this (and any) move.

So today I’m moving slowly. I slept in this morning, then pottered around before going into town to have lunch with Mum. This afternoon I’ve done a few bits and pieces and will spend a little more time on my yoga mat. I’m just letting myself be a little broken because, well, I am a little broken, and it’s not going to help me to pretend otherwise. Instead of pretending I’m okay, when really I’m fragile, I’m going to put that effort into picking up the pieces and making sure I’m keeping them all together in a safe place.

Home

A few days ago, my friend Sam posted this essay about his impending move away from Adelaide. He’s moving to Sydney (which means I’ll see more of him — hurrah!) sometime in February.

Although it’s about different places, the essay quite aptly describes my own struggle to figure out where to call home. I’ve lived in Sydney now for as long as I lived in Melbourne. In between the two, I lived in Canberra for a few short months. Growing up, I called Forbes, a small town in Central West New South Wales, home.

In a way, all of these places are still home for me. It’s like they contain different versions of me — almost as if, visiting, I might run into myself. And in a way I miss all of these places. Or maybe I just miss those versions of me. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

When it comes time for me to bid Sydney farewell, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about home.

Home

Last night I was drifting off to sleep, finally, when a thought pulled me suddenly back into the waking world: this weekend, I’ll be able to visit the bakery of my childhood.

This weekend, you see, I’m heading back to Forbes, the town I grew up in. It’s the first time I’ve been back in four years. My immediate family all live in Canberra now, and most of the people I still keep in touch with from school no longer live in Forbes. Family friends still live there, but somehow I’ve not found reason to visit.

I very rarely think about Forbes. I mean, I reminisce about high school, and childhood, but I hardly ever think about the place itself, and the impact it had on me. The last time I did, I wrote an essay, which ended up being published in issue 77* of Voiceworks.

But I do often think about the concept of ‘home’, and the places I associate with that word.

My brother and his girlfriend are in Forbes today. This morning they sent me a picture of a roundabout on the main street. I’m sentimental at the best of times, but my propensity for nostalgia has been higher lately. The instant I opened that picture file, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia, and I wondered how I could possibly have excluded Forbes from the list of places I call home.

Melbourne is home for me. Sydney is home for now; Canberra sometimes home. Forbes doesn’t even get a look in. But I think it should. I lived in Forbes for many more years than I’ve lived anywhere else.

I guess, being the home of my childhood, its impact on me is something subtler than those other places, part of my subconscious.

Last year sometime, I got in a cab to go home late one night, and was chatting to the driver.

“You’re a country girl, aren’t you?” he said, suddenly.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought of myself as a country girl, but he guessed that I hadn’t grown up in a city because I got into the front seat of the cab and struck up a conversation. City girls, he said, sit in the back and avoid eye contact. Conversation? Ha.

Of course the cabbie’s guess is based on a huge generalisation about ‘city people’ and ‘country people’, but I did start wondering how many other aspects of my everyday behaviour might be related in some way to me having grown up in Forbes.

I’m not sure what to expect from myself this weekend. As I write this, more and more memories find their way into my thoughts. Sometimes it amazes me that one human being can have so many memories, so many that a whole period of your life can be tucked away somewhere safe. Sometimes so safe that those memories are never found again.

Judging by pensive mood, just anticipating the trip, it’s probably safe for me to assume there’ll be more of the same over the next two days. (I’m going back for a party though, so I’m sure there’ll also be plenty of plain ol’ fun.)

I get the feeling that some of this wistfulness will become writing. Fiction, maybe. Watch this space.

~

* Express Media’s website is down at the moment, so you might not be able to access that back issues link. I’ll keep an eye on it though, and update it when I can.