Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Still a piece of me will always be
Sitting in my hometown sun
-The Waifs

I have a home, a little home for two, but it is not my only home. I have a home without these walls. I could take my things, little familiar things, to make me feel at home. I could take my big thing, my man thing, my husband thing, who could be my only home if I had to choose. Then there is the home that is my mother. It is in her arms and in any four walls that she inhabits. There are other people and their houses that conjure a feeling of belonging, of being able to be me, of relaxing into that comfortable homely space. There is also a little town called Tarnagulla that stills feels like home to me.

The former draper shop in Tarnagulla's main street

It is a blink and you’ll miss it town, I am by no means flagging it as a holiday destination. A friend once remarked that the place is like a film set from an old movie as there is little else beyond the historic buildings in the main street - to the untrained eye at least. Now if you happened to spend your formative years exploring the back blocks, you will know that there are plenty of places to discover and spend many an hour exploring. Think deep, dried-up creek beds that create natural underground worlds and secret meeting spots. Think abandoned cottages from the gold rush era that pop up on rides through the bush and provide a mysterious, forbidden backdrop. Think memories of a childhood where nearly all your friends live on the same street, albeit a five kilometre road that becomes gravel on the town limits and then winds into paddocks.

My family moved to this tiny town in central Victoria in the late ‘80s. It was a "tree change" before they were cool. Our parents started building a mud brick hut on a big block of trees while we played, but more babies kept arriving until there were six, and plans to build a house on the property were understandably abandoned. We found another muddy with room for the tribe and I happily stayed until I was accepted into university back in my birthplace of Geelong.

Little towns such as these lose their sepia tones in my mind when I think of teenagers. Far from high schools, unis, shopping centres and movie theatres, there is little here for young people dying to burst into adulthood. Feeding developing passions can be difficult. One must embrace friends, family and sport, and by that I mean football or netball. If you hate any or all of these, you might wither up until the next bus (destination: OUT) rolls into town. Diversity is limited.

For reasons I understand well, some people never want to leave their home in the country. City life holds no appeal. For me, not even Geelong was enough. I had lined up a job in Melbourne before the ink had dried on my final uni assignments, so keen I was to make it to our state capital. The Mister's knowledge of the city was so little at first that he drove with a Melway on his lap and emerged from each trip with beads of sweat swamping his brow. But it was not long before we felt truly at home and now we're not sure when, or if, we'll ever leave. After visiting all the capital cities across our big, brown land, I am happy with our little lot. Every day there is something else I want to see. A new shop, an old shop that is new to me, a new restaurant, an old restaurant also new to me, an undiscovered laneway, a hidden suburb. I do dream of trees sometimes and I imagine building a holiday house for my brothers and my sister on our block. One like this:

None of my family live in Tarnagulla these days, slowly we all left for further education or better job prospects. We still have the block and the half-built hut so we can go back to play every now and then, and reminisce on those childhood days of friends, family, food, adventure and dreams. Part of our beloved Dad's spirit lives there on that block of trees and in that quiet, little town where he helped his family grow. Even though he was born overseas, I think of him when I hear The Waifs sing the words “When I die won’t you bury me in the town where I was born, most of my life I’ve been rambling free but when I die I wanna come back home.”

Home is many places, not always the town where we were born. It begs the question, what or where is home to you?

1 comment:

  1. I was browsing and following links, and found myself here re-reading this entry. I choked up, had tears in my eyes and breathed a big sigh. You are such a talent Charles Whyte and no mantter where I live I will follow your blog and catch up in person when I am 'home'.
    Former FNQ soon to be new South Australian x




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