I am told I think too much. Without really planning it, I leave myself a great deal of time for thinking. I prefer quiet space and when I find it I keep it clear of distractions. I seldom listen to the radio or music when I drive long distances and music played in the background makes me think I am in a lift … or the supermarket.
And so I have been thinking a great deal about ‘home’. My students have an assignment coming up and I am thinking about how I will discuss it with them. They have to write about their home and include some research into the period in which it was built and its social, cultural, geographical and historical parameters.
I worry about this piece of work. Already one student has told me he lives in a flat. Interpreting this, he is telling me, I think, that he lives unhappily alone. This assignment is highly personal if done well.
For me, strangely, ‘home’ is not where I live now but where I grew up: It is my parents home. Dad built this house in the mid 1950s. It is a simple, three bedroom, one bathroom house rendered with cement and painted pale blue. When my parents leave this house it will be pulled down. It takes up a small space on a large block of land and, built with inferior building materials, it is tired and shabby.
The house is different now to when I lived there. I remember a red speckled linoleum on the floor of the bathroom and toilet. And the carpet was a pale green with a spray of purple flowers woven into it. My parents saved for many years to put wall-to-wall carpet over the bare boards. Not long after it was laid our Labrador puppy piddled on it. The colours were not fast and the purple dye in a spray of flowers ran into the green background.
Recently, doing research for a paper on 1950s Australian women and their homes, I was looking through copies of The Housewife Magazine published in the 1950s. I came across and article on a display home in Burwood. Thousands of people went through it, admiring its layout and features. An accompanying photograph of the house looked familiar but when I studied the plan of the house I realised it was our house. Just the placement of a window was changed but the plan showed the laundry chute in the hall, the sliding doors between the dining nook and the sitting room, the large open fireplace and the bedrooms with their clever interlocking wardrobes. It was a Swedish design and the plan was available for purchase.
Now I see this house and its modifications everywhere there is a 1950s development.
Is this recognition of the house I grew up in as my ‘home’ connected to the security of the childhood I spent there … as compared to the adventurous life I have led since leaving it? Am I looking at a nostalgic me? I wonder if any of my students will dig into the emotional connections they have with home and houses or whether they will do the work set without thinking too much about it.