Through the Looking Glass
Something you hear often, when living away from home, family and friends, is ‘don’t worry, nothing around here ever changes.’ It is said, usually in soothing tones, in response to a request for news, a fear of missing out or just an expression of disconnectedness. Even my Mum said, the last time I was face down in a pool of sticky, stodgy, self pitying homesickness, ‘Australia will always be here.’ And in many ways, they’re right – Mums always are anyway. You go home after a little while and there are still the same faces behind the counter at the local deli and the same potholes to avoid when you drive over to visit your Nana. The Harbour Bridge is still in the same place and Kyle Fucking Sandilands is still on the radio. The places to be seen may have changed, but the kind of people frequenting them haven’t. Home, wherever it may be, is always home. Indeed its greatest comfort lies in the fact it doesn’t change.
But, and there’s always a but, change can wear a different costume. It doesn’t always look sudden and different and scary. It most often looks quite normal. Just like life. And life, as we well know, goes on, regardless of where you are, leaving its lines and marks, taking what it needs, sparing what it doesn’t. And sometimes, one of the more difficult aspects of living abroad, is watching life march on from a distance. Peering through that magic looking glass and watching everyone go about their daily business in Sydney, working, studying, moving out, getting married, having kids, getting older. Part of you, the greedy part, wants to eat the cake. You want the constant challenge and wonder and opportunities of a life abroad … and you want to be at home, in the thick of it, not just watching it all happen, but feeling it all happen around you.
My parents are getting ready to sell our family home. It is the house I grew up in, the only one I ever lived in, in Sydney. My Mum writes to me daily, letting me know what she is doing, how she is progressing with the mammoth task of preparing a 2 hectare property for sale. And I reply ‘don’t sell it, don’t sell it, don’t sell it.’ Then I pour a glass of wine and roll around in nostalgia for a while. Just like I did when the time came for my parents to sell my car – my first and only, dearly beloved car – because it was doing nothing but collect dust in the garage. These fixtures of life in Australia are being chivvied along by time, passing hands, moving on and I am not there to say goodbye, not there to feel the mixed bag of emotions that are end-of-eras. I’m not there by choice – I chose to leave, I chose to move to Europe and ultimately I chose to wind up in Bavaria. But the illogical part of me tries valiantly to ignore the part my choices have played. The illogical part of me says, ‘leave me and my nostalgia alone.’
The oxymoron of being on this side of the looking glass is everything changes at the same time as nothing does. I’m going home at the end of this year, for a visit. My car won’t be there and perhaps Christmas won’t be at the family house. My Dad will have celebrated a big birthday, a milestone, and I will have missed it. There will be new relationships, new engagements, new jobs, new achievements, new apartments. But all of this newness will have happened to the same people. I will talk about all of his newness into the early hours of the morning with the same people I talked about life as I knew it into the early hours of the morning when I lived in Sydney.
Life keeps marching on, on both sides of the looking glass. Eras come to an end. It’s just that sometimes you wish you could be there to give them a bit of a standing ovation.