Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finding yourself back where you began..

I grew up in commission flats. High rise commission flats. I had my first crush there, experienced my first best friend there, my first punch up (I was at the receiving end - til my mum sent me back down stairs from the 6th floor to give as good as I got), my first familiarity with a pub spilling out with happy drunks at 9am.

I was happy.

We were surrounded by other migrant families, lots of - indigenous and white - park bench occupants, families with 9 kids (my best friend Linda came from one of these families - oh how I miss her), and family friends that were counted on across the multiple floors and buildings as parents worked double shifts in low income roles.

My family was one such family.

My dad was a tram conductor before supplementing his income with a taxi driving gig (which he went on to write off twice - yes that is exactly where my driving skills came from). My mum was a cleaner at St Vincents hospital nearby, from where she would often knick a couple of biscuit packets, tucked away in the square pockets of her crisp blue cleaning uniform - to treat us to when she got home. It was from there that she would ring me at 8am to make sure I was up and getting me and my brother ready for school. I was always still fast asleep. On the odd occasion she ran home in her tea break to make sure we were ok, before running back.

My dad just told me the other day that I would often be left at home alone by the time I was 3, with strict instructions on who I was to answer and not answer the door to - instructions I dutifully fulfilled as I stood on three layers of yellow pages and peeped through the peep hole. My now hubby was aghast when he heard this story, but you can't understand what you haven't had to experience.

I was happy.

They, unfortunately, were not so happy.

But they scraped and saved and by the time I was 12 they had managed to buy a house in the Nth West of Melbourne and the next stage of my life commenced. I found my high school love, although we only ever got as far as pashing behind the shelter sheds. I think my hair and shoulder pads got in the way of anything beyond that. I struggled to fit in but somehow I managed to do it, and eventually do it well.

They continued working in the same jobs (though my dad moved up to being a bus driver) and they bought another investment property within a year.

However, without the combined goals of scrimping, saving and their built up communities around them, the seams of their fairly unfortunate marriage (I doubt they ever truly loved each other, actually I know they didn't) fell apart and stage 3 of my life started.

From there many more stages came and went and much of it all I sit and reminisce about today. Especially today.

Fast forward to this week.

I landed back in Fitzroy, Melbourne to attend, quite possibly, the most generous 40th I've been to (I'd flown in from Sydney where I now live). Along with 20 0thers I was treated to a ridiculously divine three course meal, champagne and wine on tap, at a very very swanky restaurant 100 metres from the block of flats I'd grown up in. My girlfriend having the 40th was a flatmate I'd lived with in Bondi, in my very early 30's. A million lifestyles away from where I began.

I sipped the champagne right outside my block of flats. My block of flats. I was in wonderful company and was thoroughly enjoying myself but I couldn't sit still. I excused myself and wandered outside where I stood for what felt like an hour or more.

I breathed in the air, I looked for the monkey bars I'd spent many years swinging on, I saw myself as a 7 year old running down the fire escape and sat wondering if the elevators were still as crapfully slow and vandalised as they were back then.

I remembered the ladies that looked after me on the 17th and 7th floors, and remembered my crush from the 4th floor. I remember my one friend that had Enid Blyton books (my own library was stocked with a handful of Golden books) and that nurtured my love for magical stories. I wondered how long it must have taken me and my brother to walk alone to the local primary school. I remembered Mr Sullivan that always told me off for being late but that I loved with my whole 7 year old heart. I remembered by first call to a radio station - was I about 8? - asking them to play "What about me". I felt lost, happy, strange, wonderful, blissful.

I love where I grew up. I love where I ended up.

They're my childhood memories, and damn if they aren't as wonderful today as they were back then.

The only thing I miss, is not knowing where all my friends of those years are now. Linda, Kathy, Deborah, I still think of you often.

For all my friends did I manage to continue to get so lucky?

Dovic xx
PS Has your road travelled moved in directions you least expected? Or always on course?


  1. I got so caught up in that post. I love going back to where I came from. My childhood left a lot to be desired, but I still love so much about it. Where I grew up, the things I did, the friendships I made - most everything. We went back to Parkes a couple of years ago and I was like you - just wanted to stand there and breathe in the memories of all the places I'd been - the park, my street, the tree I used to climb, my school ... childhood is just so special, no matter what it was like. It is something we always have to look back on and no matter how bad elements of it might have been, there were always those magical memories, even if some of them were from reading Enid Blyton books. I loved that post Ms Dovic. xx

  2. What a wonderful post.

    I grew up in Housing Commission too, well not grew up, grade 9. Mum still lived there when she passed away last year.

    I'm ashamed to say I couldn't get away fast enough. Moved out as soon as possible to distance myself from the area and the stigma. But to my Mum, it was a saviour and to me, it was the reason we had anything. Mum, as a single mother would NEVER have been able to afford to give us what she did paying normal rent.

    It was a totally shit area, someone got shot dead outside of her house, but it was my, I guess, stage 3 of life and it taught me a lot.

    I reckon every stage we live through is just one puzzle piece that makes up the entire jigsaw.

    Great post, great insight into you. x

  3. Gorgeous Di. Gorgeous post and gorgeous you. Your childhood was very different to my safe middle class suburban one, but there's much in common too. That sense of love, community and wonder. I have always avoided the places I grew up as my life has moved on so much, but perhaps I'll take a drive soon. xo

  4. Look to be honest, I think I was a tad pissed when I was taking in the air and living up and breathing in all those happy memories :). It's definitely the happy side...but there will always be ying, and always be yang. The ying is where my memories sit today. Remembering first crushes and the like certainly helped! To be honest too, I think we were shielded a little by the migrant community - they were all in there trying damn hard and helping each other out. That's one thing that on reflection I truly truly loved. And for all the flack commission flats get and got, I'm sure it's saved a hell of a lot of families. Not all, but there will always be yin and yang....

  5. Such a captivating post and what an insight. To answer your q, no my life has not gone the way I thought it would - some parts have, by and large, but other major events have altered the course of my perceptions, beliefs and feeling of belonging.

  6. I love this post! You are such a beautiful writer Di!

    PS. I am a migrant myself and I totally get that sense of community that you were talking about.xx

  7. wow, it's sooo amazing how life throws us twists and turns! sounds like you had an interesting upbringing. it's funny that as kids we don't always see the bad stuff around us, as long as our direct needs are met, we are happy!

  8. Such similar memories. No high-rise, but similar none-the-less. Like you, I was happy. My parents were not.

    I am glad my children are living a different life, and are able to take it for granted. Worries should be saved for parents.

    I am grateful for myself and my family, and for you and yours.

    Circumstances change, they are different for everyone, but there is so much about our lives that we CAN choose.

    Especially the important stuff on the inside.


  9. Ah Di. I have goosebumps. So beautifully written and so capitivation.

    I am so glad you came to find yourself back where you began - to revel in these memories is a good thing. And selfishly, good for me, to see and hear what makes you you.


  10. ohhh what a wonderful post and very insightful to the person MsDovic is. What a journey you have been on. It did make me reflect on my journey - hmm I live a couple of suburbs away from where I grew up (how boring for me). My parents waited till we were older and separated although I was the youngest left at home with my sad mother contemplating her future. This post has to be published...

  11. Hey Mom vs boys - I think you nailed it.'s funny that as kids we don't always see the bad stuff around us, as long as our direct needs are met, we are happy.."

    It's run of the mill experiences that keep us happy as kids I reckon, and that we reflect back fondly on - not things.

    And yes Disydoit, you should definately publish it!

    Thanks everyone for your comments. They mean a lot xxx

  12. An extraordinary post Ms Dovic. Gave me goosebumps. Is a wonderful thing that you can look back and be happy, and look at now and be happy. Is a special quality.

  13. Sarah (Maya_Abeille)October 4, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Ok I'm trying again. I think I won't be as eloquent this time but what I wanted to say was thank you for sharing this gorgeous post. I will try to take it on board for myself (although I admire you, personally I struggle with this)

    Who knows what goes into the mix to make us review our childhood with fondness or sadness? As kids our 'normal' is all we know, it usually years before we realise that it hasn't been that way for every one else (egocentric little beings that we are!). Temperament and a basic sense of security seem to be key, along with, to paraphrase Carol, our own 'inside choices'.

    PS I also think Annie is amazing for coming away with the sense of wonder that children are entitled to rather than allowing circumstances to devastate her...xx

  14. Such a beautiful post. So beautifully written. So evocative. Some memories I could certainly relate to (I have my own "What About Me" story), and some alternative perspectives - while you were inner-city urban, I was rural (at that stage). I loved it, and am happily delving now into memories of my own. xx

  15. Just gorgeous ... such heartfelt memories. I nearly cried at the thought of you crossing the road looking for your past, while the friends of your present sat inside the swanky restaurant.

    Really beautifully written.

  16. Lovely.
    I grew up in a really poor neighbourhood. My parents also scrimped and saved. I had hand-me-downs, and they had already been made by my mum and altered again, as she could sew. We were never allowed to have kids over (looking back, it was probably the extra cost). Dad was never around because he worked long hours, and Mum (I realise now) was alone and depressed. It was horrible. We were belted and abused. We were made to go to church.
    And yet ... and yet. As I grow older and revisit my childhood, I am able to come up with things I loved about it.
    Getting to cook to help Mum out at around the age of 6.
    Being allowed to ride to school by myself at the age of 5 and onwards.
    Doing chores for Mum and Dad, including walking into town by myself and buying things from a shopping list.
    I still have mixed thoughts about my childhood, but I know that my parents had my best interests at heart, and it wasn't all bad.

  17. Your stories are all so beautiful. It's that sliver of hope in each of them that makes it so. Glad we all found it at the crucial one way or another and from wherever we came.

    Thank you again for sharing, and for all the comments. I love them! xx

  18. great post, it makes you think of your childhood, things that were so different and things that stayed the same. i grew up in the suburps, in red brick built "row houses"..i lived in the city, then went abroad, small town, petit village.. all that was a relatively straight line.
    then i moved 15000 km around the globe.
    it's very different. but it's a suburp again.
    i feel home.

  19. Great post, and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed reading it. I grew up in Sydney and am now in Melbourne...and I think know of your block of flats :) Glad you have such happy memories.

  20. You certainly know how to paint a picture with words Di. xx

  21. Gorgeous post.
    In many ways, I haven't strayed far from where I began. In many other ways, it's like another lifetime.

  22. I want to thank you for writing such an inspiring post. You write so beautifully.

    I grew up in a single parent, welfare household with a mum who made sure I knew I was loved and pushed me to strive for more. We might not have had much, but my memories are happy ones.

    Thanks for reminding me to never forget.

  23. What a wonderful post.
    I get to go back to where I grew up all the time...the family farm.
    My Dad has lived there for his whole almost 67 years...imagine.
    It has changed a lot though over the years, and my Nan and uncle Bevan are missing now.
    Looking back is an amazing thing, isn't it?

  24. Hey honey pie! This is a fabulous post and I'm so not surprised it has provoked such a great response. I tell you what I wonder, how I got so lucky to be a part of your life.
    Much love
    PS it was great chatting this morning. Have had spring in my step (or at least on my fitball) ever since xx

  25. Hey 'Dovic' - Love your post. My childhood was very different in some ways, but similar in others - hard working (work work work work .. wooden spoon) and I was always translating at the shops for my dad (50 years later they still don't understand him). Anita

  26. That was a brilliant post, it gave me goosebumps and its how my Latvian Mum grew up! Beautifully written Dovic and I'm back into to the blogging again. you are a great inspiration!

  27. Hey there lovey, beautifully written - I love a bit of nostalgia :-) Its great to have all those memories !!!

  28. Inspirational! I can't tell you how much I loved this post and how much I DON'T love the fact that you have only written one post a month! More please!

  29. Hi there :)
    just stopping by to say I am excited about meeting you at the Aussie Blogger's Conference in March!
    You are a beautiful writer - your post about the little girl you lost was so moving.



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