Old Stomping Ground

April 30, 2007 at 6:51 am (Uncategorized)

I love the contradictory, strange known-ness of returning to a place you once knew well. I enjoy the sensation of uncanny recognition, the familiar unfamiliarity of being ‘back again,’ so it was with a real and zingy spring in my step that I made my over to Bondi on Friday. Llew and I were ‘house-sitting’ for his sister Flic, but really this is just a polite way of saying we took advantage of the empty one-bedder for a weekend back in the old ‘hood.

And it’s not just any one-bedder. It is – was? – our one-bedder, the place in Bondi Beach Llew and I rented so lovingly for more than two years. Our home before this one. It was – is? – such a great place, more a little cottage than an apartment, more the stables than the granny flat. It is a site of many happy times and so many memories. And when we moved out because we’d bought a place of our own, which we love almost monstrously, Flic took over the lease and has made it her home now for almost as long – is it possible that it’s been longer? – than we made it ours.

And so it’s no longer our place – our place is here. It no longer looks as it used to look, and yet of course it still does. It was as much a spatial reckoning for me as an emotional one – it staggers me just how differently people will interpret the same space. I love Flic’s home not because of the extent to which it resembles my old home, but almost precisely for the extent to which it does not. It is her place now not just because it contains her things but because of how those things are arranged. Everything is different, and the home’s identity has been completely transformed along with the shifting identity of its inhabitants.

And Bondi Beach? Well, it will always exercise a strong tug on my affections. My heart will always lurch coming down Bondi Rd, then Campbell Parade and into Bondi Beach. It is where so much of my identity lies, or at least where lies the explanation for it. It is where I’m “from,” to whatever degree I can be said to be “from” somewhere. It’s probably the place that, overall, I have spent the most time. Undoubtedly some of the most significant moments of my life occurred in Bondi or with Bondi as the specific if long distant backdrop. It is my reference point, the way I navigate my way through life in the way sailors defer to the stars.

It will always be home, too, even though I haven’t lived there for more than two years. It has a claim on my heart and mind like no other place I have ever known, though there are many others that hold me in thrall. I felt so emotional leaving yesterday, Sunday afternoon, to come home, because part of me felt that in truth, I was leaving it. It was sad and strange and I almost cried. Then I got home, home to this one, and I was so happy to be here and within these dear and familiar walls that Bondi immediately receded, and I am left to think it was always thus, and shall always be. Home. Here and there.

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