This weekend I fly to Perth on the west coast, and will drive 5 hours to the southwest coast to see my dad for his 60th birthday. I am going ‘home’.
‘Home’ is a word laden with connotations that make me feel a plethora of emotions. Coming ‘home’ after a long trip brings mixed emotions – from relief to sadness, and many shades in between. From necessity in conducting a long-distance relationship, Ben and I have come to know our ‘home’ as ‘wherever we are together’. Home in the context of my up-coming weekend, is my hometown, and even more than that, it is where my parents are.
Ironically I have never lived in the house where my dad and step-mum currently live. They sold up the house that was my home – and home base – for 15 years and moved from Perth to the south coast. They did this a couple of years ago, and the last time I saw them at that house, in the hills outside of Perth, I drove away in tears. I had lived there, moved away, lived there again, and then moved away again; it was my home base, my longest permanent address ever. I still had boxes of stuff there long after I had moved to Sydney. It wasn’t until my dad called and said, “Darling, come and get your boxes,” that I knew he and Gail were serious about selling up and moving elsewhere.
Now they are building a new home that my clever dad designed, and while they do that, they live in a rental property in the tiny, extremely beautiful, town of Denmark. This is where I will be heading to this weekend. But even though I have never lived there, and this is only my third visit to the house in two years, it feels like home. As I have said before, ‘home truly is where the heart is’.
I will sit at the breakfast bench in my pyjamas, with messy bed-hair, and as a 38-year-old woman, let my dad squeeze me fresh orange juice. When he places it before me, I will say, “thank you, Daddy,” as I have done for decades and he will say, “You’re welcome, Darling,” as he has said for just as long. It is a ritual that is a small, but integral part of the whole. And in no other context do I drink orange juice; it is just what we do, one of the things that makes their home my home too.
In addition to the trip south, I will spend a fast and furious Friday seeing as many people as I possibly can, all of whom are ‘family’. Like ‘home’, ‘family’ means so much more than its dictionary definition, as I am fortunate to have long-time friends who are as precious to me as my relatives. I will be seeing three of these friends tomorrow.
First will be Thomas, who I met in the first week of university many years ago. We get to see each other so rarely, but it is always a homecoming when we do. Tom has been my partner in crime so many times, that just a single word, or a look can set us both off on a nostalgic fit of giggles. He understands my love-hate affair with my hair, as he has his own, he is unfailingly supportive and compassionate, and our mutual love of the dance floor has made us an impromptu floorshow dozens of times. Even though we can only squeeze in a quick coffee tomorrow morning, it is worth it just to see him.
I will then hit the road and arrive at Jules’ house for lunch, and Stace will join us. Both women have known me since I was 14; both are my sisters. They have known me through bad 80s hair, and bad 90s hair, come to think of it. In those 24 years we’ve all gained weight, lost weight, gained it back and lost it again. We have seen each other through every relationship we have had, including three marriages (not mine), and the heartbreak we all endured in our 20s. We have seen each other at our best and our very worst. There are three children (again, not mine), so I have happily adopted the moniker ‘Aunty Sand’, and I am an awesome aunty. Tomorrow I meet my newest niece, who arrived only a few months ago.
Tonight I will be collected from the airport by my dad’s sister and her husband, and we will catch up over a bottle of red, as is our ritual. I am, at once, a friend and their ‘young’ niece. I have travelled and worked and lived enough to have wonderful, worldly, lively conversations with them, but at the end of the evening when they hug and kiss me goodnight, I am their ‘Sand’, who still loves to be showered with affection and called ‘Darling’ before she climbs into bed.
Going home to Perth is often these whirlwind trips where I cram in as much love and laughter and, as many ‘catch ups’ as I can, but I do not come back to Sydney depleted. Just the opposite. Even though I love to go far and wide, a trip ‘home’ to Perth feels like an oasis. With ease I strip off the roles I play in my working and grown up world, and just be me, the woman-child. A dose of family and old friends, a visit home, where I am just ‘Sand’, becomes a sliver of heaven in my busy world.
I will not get to see everyone this trip over west; it is too short. I will miss my mum and her sisters and their families. I will miss many old friends. I will not be able to take Ben with me this time, maybe the next.
But these are not thoughts to dwell on, as I am looking forward to my glass of orange juice, and to wishing my dad a very happy 60th birthday.
Happy Birthday Daddy.