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 today...how did I manage to continue to get so lucky?
PS Has your road travelled moved in directions you least expected? Or always on course?