I didn't grow up in this place; that is, in the childhood memories, primary and high school days, playing hide-and-seek with the next door neighbours sense of the word. I have never lived here long term, can't call myself a local or tell people that I'm "from here" when they ask. Here is where I visited my parents during university holidays, seeking solace in anonymity; here is where we spent lakeside summers sharing picnics under the blue gums and lying in the sun, where we had countless back yard barbecues and late night movie marathons; here, despite my never having lived here, is where I have for some time now, called home. And yet this year, for the first time, I believe it to be true.
It's a strange kind of comfort, being here; I'm surrounded by my parents' belongings - family photographs, inherited books, Mum's collection of magazines, and story-telling trinkets; the desk that I work at was once our dining room table, complete with fades and scratch marks, indents made by pens and pencils, remnants from my early attempts at writing. I am inhabiting this kind of in-between space - a place where I am conscious of my family around me and find comfort in their residual presence, whilst at the same time I'm reminded that they're on their own adventure; I've set up house and added my own effects, only to remember that this place is both mine and not mine; everything is here, but something is missing; they are here and they are not here. I am a quasi-lighthouse keeper, stoking the fire, keeping the weeds down, trying to keep here, a home.
And so I find myself growing up in a whole new sense of the word; that twenty-something "grown-up" growing, the kind where you suddenly start reveling in home grown produce, don't mind spending hours in the kitchen poring over recipe books, chase off the various neighbourhood cats encroaching on your garden, curse the rain when it begins to get your sheets wet, and smile when you stand back at freshly picked flowers arranged in a vase. Yes. I am turning into that person. And yes. I think I'm okay with that.
By some slow and quiet osmotic process, I have taken up the fragments they have left here and sewn them into the fabric of my daily routine. They might be gone for now, but I feel like I'm growing towards them. And if that means perfecting my pillow plumping and bed-spread smoothing skills, marvelling at a well-stocked pantry and re arranging furniture then so be it; if that means researching gardening methods and swatting white butterflies away from my silverbeet with a well-worn squash racquet "because it's organic" then bring it on. These are the things that make me feel at home.
Perhaps, in time, I will be able to say "I grew up here" after all.