The first time I went to Paris, 20 years ago (really?), I had dreamed of being there for so long that I was almost afraid to go. Would I be disappointed, disillusioned? Happily, wonderfully, I was not. If anything, it was even more beautiful, more “Paris” than even I though it could possibly have been. It felt familiar. It felt like “home”. I think part of me will always long to be there.
The second time I went to Paris, many years later, I was with The Husband. Again, I was almost afraid to go. What if he hated it? Why did that matter? I think it’s because if he had hated a place I so profoundly loved, it would be like hating a part of me. I needn’t have worried. He loved it, too. Not in the way that I do, but he could finally understand why, though he still refused to agree to move there with me. Selfish bastard.
So where is this place called home, and what is it? As I write, I am in the house I grew up in, and where my parents still live, in East Maitland. Captain Chatterbox, Mademoiselle Headstrong and I are enjoying a five-day minibreak – they are being wrangled and spoiled by Nan and Pop whilst I do what I love most – potter about. And drink champagne. And eat cheese. And read.
My father (the lunatic) has spent the last two years almost single-handedly renovating the entire interior of the house, room by room. When we arrived two days ago it was the first time I had seen it completed. He has done a stunning job (talk about a handy man!) but it looks nothing like the house I grew up in. And yet, it still feels like “home”. Each room contains so many memories. My past. My history. My life. Would I be devastated if my parents ever left it? I believe I would.
Because I have inherited a goodly portion of my father’s lunacy, I have made myself keep up my morning jogging routine, running, Marcel Marceau-style against icy gale-force winds, around the streets of East Maitland, past the houses of old friends, my old church, my old school. I do not want to live here again. My life and my home, now, are in Marrickville. But it is a nice feeling to also have another “home” to come back to from time to time.