Yesterday I took my two youngest children, Emma and Blake, to visit my old childhood stamping ground at West Lakes. We looked at the two houses my family lived in while at that suburb, one right on the lake front with a pontoon. That was the house of my teens. I also drove around to see a couple of schools I went to.
The whole place seemed more compact with less space
between each destination than there used to be. I found I could still
follow my nose to get to each place which I used to think had so much of
my personality invested in it. I could tell the kids stories of
escapades that happened in certain parks and reserves and different
houses, but now new folk have long taken over and there is no trace of
me left. It made me feel melancholy and I realised it must be a bit like
death. The same thing surely happens when we leave this planet
altogether. The places you think you're influencing fill the gaps you
leave with other people.
The lake was beautiful. It's
such a huge and wonderful feature, serene and lovely. We were still
driving around when the sun started to set on it. If I lived there now,
I'd enjoy sitting out the front to ponder, meditate, still my thoughts
and reflect. I never used to do that much as a kid. I was either too
busy reading books or had my head ticking with ideas and future plans to
change the world. Maybe adult cares and
responsibilities have changed me more than I thought.
kids enjoyed themselves. There's a new playground at the little reserve
where I tried learning to swim and Blake loved playing with the diggers
on the sand. Emma, as I expected, was greatly impressed by the lake,
palm trees, flash resort style buildings and big shopping centre. "Why
did you ever leave? I would've been in tears to leave a place like this.
We have nothing good in the Hills. If I lived here, I'd be out swimming
every day." She couldn't believe it when I told her how elated I'd been
to think of moving to the Adelaide Hills, where I thought everything
looked like a storybook scene.
I can remember the first day of waking up to the sound of rural
bird calls, nothing like I was used to at West Lakes. Yet, now I could
understand the appeal of my old area, liking the fresh sea breeze I must
have overlooked when I lived there. I told Emma, "It seems like a
mini-holiday day out today, but when you live here every day trying to
work and study like I used to, it's a different story."
We had a bit of a walk around the lake. There I was with Emma and
Blake, not knowing whether I felt like a success or failure after all
this time. I was supposed to be successful as an adult, wasn't I? I
always wanted to be a writer but I was supposed to have enough money to
afford more comforts than my family enjoys.
Interestingly, I am 42, the same age my dad would have been when we first moved to West Lakes (when I was 5). He was a
success, when I look at my own life. He had the money to build houses
and take holidays. I'm a crashing failure who's done nothing to compare.
It helped me put all my stepping stones with the books I've written
into perspective; getting published, winning this prize, hearing from
that reader etc. They excite me but do they mean much? But then I
remembered all that Dad used to go through to get all that. He had
stressful work which annoyed him, while I enjoy what I do. Success and
failure really are relative.
I came back up to the Hills tired and a bit sad but not in a
really unpleasant way. The trip shows me not to take myself so seriously
because nothing is permanent anyway. The best idea for anyone is to
live each day to the fullest, appreciating what it brings. Perhaps the
most ironic thing is that I seem to have come full circle. As a kid, we
used to take day trips into the Hills to get away from it all and gain a
fresh outlook. Yesterday I did the same thing with Emma and Blake but
the opposite way around.