I saw the ad on the Saturday morning.
It was given an extra mention as it was in the editorial section of the Bendigo Advertiser’s Domain property guide.
I felt my heart leap.
It read beautifully. ‘A one off. Unique. Native plantings, 1500 square metres of land to enjoy, surrounded by bush’.
This was our home and reality suddenly struck. We were leaving.
We fell in love with this large plain home forty years ago, on a wet cold day in May when we had three very small daughters and a promotion from Warrnambool to Bendigo to manage.
We loved our life and our great friends in Warrnambool but the opportunity to change direction was too good to miss.
I remember our words to this day to the estate agent as he drove up the drive, ‘Don’t take us anywhere else. This is what we hoped and dreamed of.’
And so it was.
We have lived and loved, welcomed a son to join us a year later, and our children thrived in this beautiful environment. They grew up recreating the Fabulous Five and the Secret Seven with the neighbourhood kids, building huts and a BMX track up along the Faugh `a Ballech , camping overnight in the bush and being spooked out of their minds (they came home during the night I remember) by the mysterious bush sounds and the nocturnal bush animals grunting and snuffling, prowling in the dark.
As each young adult hit the infamous VCE we would strike out in the evening for a fast walk into the bush, round and back in time for dinner. What did that bush do for their souls and their sanity? It offered a gentle serenity and silence for a few minutes in their otherwise crowded day.
They have left it all behind now. They are nearly all in their forties, responsible and wonderful parents themselves, and while they probably don’t acknowledge it now they are forever touched and changed by the experience of living so closely in tandem with the bush. It is part of them, they are part of the bush, and will always be.
Our son moved away from the city to buy a bush block in the country so that his two children could have an environment similar to his own childhood. It is a magical childhood for them.
Our city grandchildren come often to stay and we always do a traditional walk up unto the bush, then collect a pile of sticks from around the trees on our block, and light the camp fire to toast their marshmallows.
And now, we too must move.
Suddenly the garden seems too large, the maintenance too onerous and our children are beginning to notice that we don’t move quite as quickly as we once did.
They won’t be near enough to keep a close eye on us. We must look to a place where we can have people around to share these next years with.
Do we move to a smaller home, a manageable garden, close to town or do we choose a ‘ Lifestyle Village’ so called, but really a retirement village by any other name?
If it were to another home only smaller, the same challenges would return again – a lawn to mow, a garden to weed, a light bulb to change, and it would be more difficult as we aged.
The Village has a beautiful community centre, a bowling green, an inground heated pool. Most importantly behind the Village looms a mighty selection of gumtrees, and the walking tracks spread out from every angle.
We can still have our grandchildren to stay and we can still walk up into the bush and light a little camp fire during the safe fire seasons. Marshmallows can still be stuffed into eager mouths until the children look almost the same colour as the marshmallows themselves.
When they stay in our new environment they can swim in the heated pool and play bowls with us. I can’t wait to teach them bowls as even the very young play bowls these days.
There is a billiard room, and their parents can teach them how to play snooker.
I am sitting here writing my story, watching as the twilight falls over our beautiful garden of native trees and shrubs, watered, cherished and nursed along for 40 years.
The boxes are multiplying in the lounge room as we pack....slowly.
The memories flood back. Lots of laughter, occasional tears, celebrations that came with success, anxieties that came with failure, but these life experiences maketh the child, and develop the person. None of us escape unscathed in this life, and we are all better people for having experienced setbacks as well as success.
We have sold so many of our belongings in these last few weeks. As our beautiful teak retro table and chairs disappeared onto a truck today.
I said quietly to the new owners ‘Love it and listen to its stories, it has a few to tell. And it did like red wine...often’. She responded with a broad smile and a reassurance that the red wine would continue to flow.
So many dinner parties....all those arguments, all that passion. The passion has never gone completely but it has mellowed over the years. Conversations changed over the years. They started around the childrens’ schools, moved on to politics, religion, careers, VCE results, universities and courses children were doing, travel, superannuation and what to do with it , engagements, marriages, grandchildren and now, ‘Where to after this?
Stages along a continuum!
Perhaps the most reassuring and gentle response was from the new owner of our home. Such a good and gentle man, he said quietly ‘We fell in love with this home as soon as we walked in. It will have a family again. It had the ambience we were looking for and it is just right for us. Know that we will look after it as well as you have.’
He is a gardener.
Of course, he will!