ready to go home

It’s been an amazing trip, basically a very good Patrick White novel come to life. I won’t forget having coffee with Aly at the Brisbane port cafe, watching container trucks plough through the wetlands like a Jeffrey Smart painting in reverse. I won’t forget seeing Barbie and Ron again, or saying goodbye to David. Egg tarts, David Malin, Rushcutter’s Bay, Pymble, Redfern, Summer Hill, Bronte, Glebe, Gleebooks, Ariel and Berkelouw.

Three and a half weeks seems about the right length of time. For three weeks I get completely immersed. Then one morning the kids and I wake up and in spite of the fact that there are mangos and rainbow lorikeets here, in spite of the fact that my love for my Australian friends and family gets more intense with every passing year, in spite of summer, we all suddenly miss shabby old San Francisco and our micropartment and our American family and even our wholly reprehensible cat. That time is now.

This morning we went to see a Festival show based on Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It’s about people who run away, and what they find, and the stories they share when they get there. I cried, of course, but for the beauty and sorrow of it and not because I was feeling sorry for myself. How novel! Australia always used to hurt me and make me feel angry and guilty but this year, for whatever reason, it didn’t. Skud told me it wasn’t Australia I disliked so much as Sydney, and when I got here I realized it wasn’t all of Sydney but only a tiny and unrepresentative sample. The rest is vanilla milkshakes and bats in the Moreton Bay figs.

And all kinds of things that have made me crazy for years and years are suddenly okay. I can’t put it any more precisely than that. Sydney hasn’t changed – well, it has, enormously, but it’s also exactly the same. And I haven’t changed either. I’m just as groundlessly opinionated and bitchy and well-meaning and tactless and incompetent and embarrassingly fond of you as ever, don’t worry. But Sydney and I are okay now, like childhood friends who had a massive falling out and made up and can’t remember, now, what any of it was about. The past isn’t sticking its knives into me any more. It probably won’t last but while I feel like this, while I sit in the house Richard built and listen to the cicadas and breathe the humidity, I am more grateful than I can say.

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