There’s a wonderful initiative in Melbourne’s central business district to map the trees. It was started by the city council in an attempt to manage the decline through drought of the urban forest. Each tree in the city was assigned an individual identity code, and along with that code, came an individual email address. The idea was that people could email specific reports about individual trees, reporting when branches had fallen, when power lines were being impinged on, when tree roots were lifting pavement, and so on.
About 18 months after I move anywhere new, I start getting itchy feet. I magically forget the painful process of packing everything we own, of readying a house for sale, rent, or return to landlord, of organising schools, animals, and our own travel. I put on my rose-tinted glasses and look around for the next place to be. I stare longingly at glossy photoshopped prints of far away places and imagine daily life there. I conveniently forget the drudgery of learning where everything is, learning how to buy things in a new place, learning the local currency (both financial and linguistic), learning how to get around. I forget the loneliness of leaving the familiar, the loved. I forget the tentative toe-dipping terror of entering new friendships, the complicated dance of figuring out who the other person is, and how they work. I have eyes only for the next adventure.
~ Deepam. Deepam. ~
My childhood Summers were spent mostly at my maternal grandmother’s home in Kerala. My Ammamma, my Mothermother, was brilliant, a self-educated soul who read without discrimination. Sharp-witted, insightful, funny, and loving, with little interest in cooking. She would delight in things of beauty, and my mother would secret away small presents that would thrill her. When Ammamma died, we found an almirah full of Avon hand-painted soaps with beautiful flowers on them. She had squirrelled them away, considering them too precious to ever use.
~ Deepam. Deepam. ~
The year scuttles quickly to its close, scooping with it unintended victims that lie unknowingly in its path. I stand on the precipice of a new year, teetering uncertainly, vertiginous as I glare at the depth of the chasm before me. Just a trusting leap away, new ventures await, new pathways to be trod, new friendships to be made. Yet, I am loath to fold away the old-new friendships of two years, to origami them into an ideal as I wave farewell to those on their own journeys to different climes. Two families who played a pivotal role in our welcome, in establishing a community, stand ready to depart for the next step of their expat journey. Two women I have come to call sisters, will too soon be restarting lives a world away. I am bereft for myself, while simultaneously rejoicing for them.
“They’re offering me a job in the US,” he said. My wanderlust choir harmonised in the background.
And so began our jarringly brief consideration of the pros and cons of an international move. We have never been ones to allow the dust to settle on us, and we were in the seventh house, in the third city since we got married, when this came up. Just a year prior, we had toyed with the idea of selling our house, buying a boat and sailing around the world. We had seriously considered this a viable option. So, the possibility of an international move wasn’t as confronting as you might think. We’d talked about the potential for many years, but somehow, this time it was more immediate, more certain, more urgent.
A flash fiction piece I wrote this week elicited unexpected observations on the motivations of a character, and started me reflecting on comments made to me over the years, and the intentions behind them.
When I was a very small child, I lived in a blissful world. As children do. Differences were barely noticed, and didn’t warrant mention.
When I was a bigger child, differences jackhammered into my consciousness.
It’s been nearly two years now. Two years since a home was packed neatly into a shipping container and transported across the world. Two years since lives were packed neatly into suitcases, friendships folded and vacuum sealed, family washed and dried and placed at the back of cupboards. Two years since we’ve woken to the melodic gurgling of magpies, since the heady aroma of eucalyptus warming in the sun has charmed its way into our consciousness.
Which mother? The one of my childhood, conservative, judgemental, and with a clear sense of how the world works? Or the one I am still becoming acquainted with now, who sees the subtle shades of grey, who perceives the nuances in tone at the age of 80?
The CEO has taken Godzilla and the TeenWolf camping today. They’ve kitted themselves out with cots, pillows, sleeping bags, daypacks, food and the ubiquitous (at least in our house) camouflage light (don’t get excited, it’s just a camping lantern with camo designs on it).
Meanwhile, Pinky and the Brain are in their respective corners… sleeping. They did their usual walk with the CEO this morning, then went on a second, longer walk with me and the boys. It’s more than their fat, spoilt bodies are used to.