There are a lot of Tasmanians here. That’s not stating the obvious. Try living in Townsville. The transient population in Townsville is made up of Uni students and the military. I lived there six years and only once met someone who was third generation.
‘Are you from here?’
It’s not a question you’re asked just anywhere. In Tasmania home and belonging matters.
I’ve been here over twenty years I answer when I’m asked if I’m Tasmanian. Like that counts for something. It’s generally met with a slow nod of the head and the knowing look. I’d be happy to live out my dying days here. I think of Tasmania as home.
I’ve just had a few days in the city where I was born however. I stopped referring to Newcastle as home years ago and instead say where I grew up or where my parents live, so it surprised me when I told people that I was going home. It was my 30 year school reunion and an important time for catching up with family and friends. Here’s five things I realised on this visit.
- Enduring friendships
There’s strength in friendships forged when you’re young. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in years, some 10 and 20 years, and we had conversations that were heartfelt and candid. Maybe we’re more open when we’re younger and the bonds that develop then are stronger.
- Everything is not as it seems
Things are really familiar but also different. All the old roads are there but now there are bypasses and link roads cutting across the city everywhere. It’s easy to feel like you know the place only to end up lost and Google Maps leading you further astray.
- Respecting the passing of time
Up until recently I wouldn’t have contemplated a school reunion, mostly because I didn’t think I’d remember anyone. I was on the money, but I realised reunions are like an anniversary, they mark an important occasion. They also mark the passing of time. Western culture isn’t so good at recognising a life lived and gestures that mark the transition to elder. A reunion is one way to mark the transition. It’s a gesture respectful of the passing of time.
- Preparing to say goodbye
My parents are in their eighties. They both live alone. Mum’s just had major cardiac surgery. Dad who was always a giant of a man, is now deaf and doddering. They’ve reached a new level of vulnerability. Intellectually I knew they were in their end years but when you don’t see them regularly, you don’t see how old they are becoming. In this visit I realised I needed to start saying goodbye, preparing emotionally for their deaths.
- A new lease on life
I left my car at the reunion’s venue and ran back to collect it the next morning. I choose a route that would take me through the suburb I grew up in. I went along the road my bus would drive to Newcastle, near where my school friend Cassy used to live, up passed the corner shop and the turnoff to my primary school, along the road I’d walk home and left at the Kahibah Bowls Club on the corner of the street where I grew up. I stopped and took a picture of the old house now renovated. I ran the path I walked to high school from 12 years of age until I turned 17, and up to Whitebridge shops which used to have the best bakery. We’d stuff ourselves with pastries at Tuesday lunch and then do an exercise class at the community hall. I saw these mundane places of my past with nostalgia.
Are you from here?
We’ve written heaps about what home means. Find more here.