This story first appeared at ABC Open’s, New In Town. Head over there to read more stories on this theme.
So many times my hubby and I were new and then gone.
We always seemed to be just settling in when it was suddenly time to go again.
This follow, or be blown, by the wind life style, which came about initially through being students and looking for work, courses and scholarships, had its down side.
We missed the people, especially extended family, left behind and often wished they could come in our suitcases.
The upside was that we always found something tantalising in the new, like when we first moved to North Queensland, to live in Townsville; that time over twenty years ago comes back to me in a huge memory wave – the long, long drive from New South Wales, the intense heat, the finding a hotel on the first night and the thankfulness for air conditioning. It was so different from my Tasmanian childhood upbringing.
I can still hear fruit bats in the trees, taste mango, and remember swimming for the first time in ocean that was like a warm bath. I remember days and days without rain. Townsville is dry tropics.
New places are vivid for the writer who thrives on a changing environment, so all these new experiences came into my life and my writing and enriched them.
During that time someone said to us, ‘once you’ve been North, you will never really leave.’ We didn’t know what they meant until we did leave when our eldest son was just one, only to return seven years later, as if by some invisible magnetic pull, but also disenchanted with the downside of life in cities.
It was a drive, further than before, past Townsville, past the cane, and heading into Tully, a town we had never heard of before – a town with a big gumboot. Now we were in the wet tropics.
We had a tiny plastic turtle whose head wobbled up and down perched in the car, it was just one of many things to amuse our now three children in the back of the car. We named it Tully Turtle.
Looking at the photographs of when we first arrived here I see how small my children were back then, all three were under ten. Two are now teenagers, and one is heading to eleven.
We have lived the longest of anywhere our entire married life, eight years in the Cassowary Coast. Previous to that our average was about three years.
Now we know what it is to move beyond being new to being settled.
The lessons are that you learn to overlook the short comings of the area, like distance from health facilities, no public transport system, and people initially being suspicious of you and waiting to see if you will actually stay before even wanting to be your friend.
We’ve learnt what it like to live in the wet season, be flooded in, and long for days without rain.
We’ve learnt the joys and pressures of tiny communities and small schools.
We’ve learnt that there is something special your children attending school with mates they were at in kindy or year one with.
We’ve learnt what a community does to pull together in tough times like after Cyclone Yasi. They become family.
When my friend Paulien visited from Holland – she took pleasure in all that was new – and kept telling my youngest two children how special their home was.
Surrounded by it all the time they take the Licuala palms, the cassowaries, the beach – all of it for granted, all of it home, none of it new now. Her wonder, made them curious about her home and why she should be so amazed – it made them want to travel.
They don’t remember what it’s like to be new to a whole area and how long it takes to make close friends. They are just at the beginning of life and they long for adventure. They long for the tantalizing things that travel will bring.
(c) June Perkins