Can’t We Just Stay Here

It was the first night of the annual girl’s weekend. It’s always the same in the initial hours of catching up; there’s a buzz, an excitement that involves hysterical giggles and glasses being filled at a rapid speed. Empty champagne bottles were lined up at the front door when the first of many toasts were made. I accidentally dropped my glass as a girlfriend was in the middle of a heartfelt speech about old friends and getting together, and as we all jumped back to avoid the broken glass amongst the wine that was now rolling off the table and into our laps, a girlfriend shrieked.

“God, she’s SO competitive” a joke directed towards me requiring the spotlight.  Tears rolled down our cheeks, silent laughing, gasping for breath.

It was a fantastic night. One of the ones that you never want to end, which is probably why after disappearing off to bed my girlfriend Cath returned moments later.

“Didn’t you go to bed?” I asked.

“Yeah, I had FOMO (fear of missing out), I had to come back.”

More giggles.

I’m back in my hometown. The little travellers and I were heading out to dinner with an old friend when I realized we were half an hour early (I was still on Melbourne time). We went for a drive to fill in some time, past the very empty Indian restaurant and through the dark back streets of a wintery rural community. The lights of the local football oval were beaming in the distance “let’s go and have a look at footy training.” As we parked the car on the outskirts of the oval I explained winter in Renmark when I was growing up, nostalgia clouding my memories. Netball in the morning and a day at the footy in the afternoon was the highlight of the weekend. I talked about kids putting the numbers up on the scoreboard, bottles of soft drink being sold out of vans, and sitting in the grandstand eating a bag of mixed lollies. I talked about Gramps having a beer at the footy club and playing tag and british bulldog outside in the cold. It was where the action was.

“Where else did people go in the winter?” one of the little travellers asked.

I looked at them blankly.

They didn’t get it. There wasn’t anywhere else to go. That was it. Sport was just as much social as recreational. It was everything.

There’s a lot of clichés about kids from the country. “You can take the girl out of Renmark but you can’t take Renmark out of the girl”. I was born and raised here and never once as a child entertained the idea of not living here forever. I made an assumption that I’d stay, born and bred, I’d live out my days surrounded by family, the river, the familiar. This was my home, this is where I belonged. I left for school but came back again. While I was away there was a constant but quiet thought, shelved safely in the back of my mind, a possibility that I was missing out. I retuned almost just to check, but it wasn’t meant to be. At twenty six I left again – it felt a little more permanent, I’d given it a crack but it was time to try something else. And when I met G I knew the gig was up. I would return as a visitor, each arrival providing further evidence that I was no longer a permanent fixture.

The little travellers love it here. “Can’t we just stay here?” asked the the fourth traveller last night. “There’s so much space.” At age seven he already has several places that feel like home, each with a bed that houses his dreams. A location unwittingly capturing and remolding his persona.

Maybe it doesn’t matter where we are, the more homes we have, the more we know what we’re missing out on. You can take the girl out of the country…

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