Family Christmas in Adelaide

Like a returning soldier back from the front I step over the threshold and drop my bags, embrace my parents. It’s still early, and the others are in bed. But it’s too late now – just gone 7am by my body clock – for me to dream of sleep, so I ready myself for the day. I’m back in Adelaide for Christmas.

I take this chance to wander through the yard, note the changes. The grass is drier, browner, naturally. We have new chickens. The chickens themselves have a new coop, neatly corroborating the discarded tin vessel I saw out the front. New vegies have been planted. My brother’s car is finally sold and bicycles have reclaimed the driveway.

Of course, the seasonal changes aren’t noteworthy in themselves. Through the first 20 years of my life the grass browned and then greened, the hens came and went, with seasonal predictability. But the other changes stir me. While they have no destination – it’s simply a directionless iteration – they take shape by natural selection, shaping us even as they are shaped by us.

a picture of my family backyard in Adelaide

My uncle and my brother-in-law’s father in the Adelaide backyard at the time of my sister’s wedding.

Periodic phenomena, each with its own frequency, overlap: the seasonal, the annual, the irregular, the decadal. This particularly affects me as I live elsewhere. I’m not connected to the minutiae, the day-to-day, the quotidian home in Adelaide. So, any return is a barrage of revelation. It reveals to me not only how my home has changed, but how I have changed. And how my relationship with home has changed.

It’s about place. This used to be my place. I used to inhabit its lawns, pull its weeds, eat its fruit. Certainly, I may still do. But I’ve been displaced. My room belongs to strangers. This place is now shaped by others. It still offers me so much. But I offer it so little. The symbiosis is past.

This is an unescapable consequence of moving on, of change. I stood up – and somebody took my seat. I’ve found new places, new yards, new gardens, and it would be naïve to expect to hoard each one, to have it to myself.

I am playing ukulele in my family garden in Adelaide.

Playing ukulele in the backyard. This is from Christmas 2011, or thereabouts.

It’s bittersweet nonetheless. This is still a place for me, but it isn’t a place of me. This sanctuary is mine no longer.

One Response to “Family Christmas in Adelaide”

  1. All the best for the new year!

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