I awoke from a dream of my childhood home. Half an hour later, I still haven’t been able to shake how vivid it was. After 18 years spent in that one home, it’s so entrenched in my mind, tied to countless memories. We moved to a bigger house by the sea. It was a three levelled monstrosity that eventually grew to represent the word “palatial”. In my heart when I think of home I still think of 107 Queen St in Northcote. If it wasn’t obvious, I don’t live there any more. I’m not even in the same country. Don’t go on some misguided pilgrimage with wreaths and tea candles. You’ll just scare the residents. Also I’m not dead or anything (unless I’m writing this from beyond the graaaaaaaave. WooOOoOoOo. Do ghosts know how the rules of capitalisation?).
It’s still in my head. From the gate we kept closed with a dog collar, to the fact that our mailbox had a “safety house” logo (a program whereby certain houses could opt to be safe spaces for people who felt scared or threatened, given that others couldn’t follow them into private property). The house has changed a bit from the picture above, but directly in front of the door used to be a huge bush of lavender. To this day smelling lavender or seeing bees takes me right back. The house was flanked on all sides by brush covered fence. Greenery was everywhere. A path extended all the way from the front to the back, where an expansive lawn gave room for ball games, a trampoline (that we used to cover in soap and put sprinklers underneath, just to make it super slippery), the space I learned to ride a bike. If balls ever went over the back fence, we’d need to get them back. When I was small, I could fit underneath the gap at the bottom. Eventually we got big enough to climb up over it. We’ve have barbecues out back and sit on dinky outdoor furniture that got bigger and more comfortable as my parents’ income scaled. A bamboo bush contained a little alcove where we ran the hose. There was a peach tree on our neighbour’s property that hung over our fence. Anything that dropped on our side of the fence was designated ours and we’d use the trampoline to jump to the high branches. The other side of the house had a hedge covered in honeysuckle. A sweet treat once a friend taught me you could sip on them, which drastically reduced our honeysuckle population.
One of my favourite childhood games was “Chasies”. We’d have to hide from the bigger boys and not get tagged. If they found us, our only recourse was to try and keep out of their reach by bludgeoning them with weapons. My favourite was the hollow plastic bat. In retrospect, I think we liked the game because it gave us an excuse to wail on the older boys with weaponry, but we were small enough (there was a 7-9 year age gap) that we couldn’t do much damage. My other favourite was “Special Delivery”, where the boys would wash out our family recycling bin, put my best friend and I into it and wheel it to the front door of some stranger. They’d knock on the stranger’s door then shout “SPECIAL DELIVERY” and run off before the stranger walked to the door. When they opened the door, my friend and I would jump out and yell “SURPRISE” as loud as we could. Like some kind of Oscar the Grouch cake strippers. It was a different time, we lived in a nice neighbourhood.
The house was huge. I don’t know now how it measures up, but as a kid it felt enormous. There were 3 bedrooms downstairs (one of which became the office/study), including the master bedroom and mine. My parents room had a big bed, dressers, a window that let tons of light in and a set of doors that opened out to the back porch. There was an inset fireplace that was no longer operational. My room had blue walls and curtains with little carousel horses on it. It started out as the room for all three of us kids. There was some kind of bunk bed plus one scenario that eventually shifted as my brothers aged and moved into the room above the double garage. Then I had a bunk bed and the room to myself. Well equipped for friends to stay the night, I took that and ran with it. From a certain age it was rare to find me over a weekend not in the presence of others. Friends would sleep over or I’d go to theirs. From the age of 12-18 it was rare to find me at home over the weekend at all.
The house had two lounges, both adjacent to the kitchen. One we called the TV room, for obvious reasons. It had a large concrete fireplace, encased in brown and tan bricks. That fireplace worked and doubled as a stove if we got desperate (or wanted indoor marshmallows). It had comfy couches, old commedia dell’arte pictures and a gorgeous stained glass door that led to the laundry room and conservatory. The TV room joined the kitchen in an open plan set-up. There were double doors that rarely if ever were shut. When I was a toddler my parents would set up the jolly jumper in that gap. When I got a bit older, dad would hold me up to see how long I could grip onto the door’s ledge with just my fingertips. I got to almost 10 seconds at some stage.
The kitchen was all wooden cupboards, brown wallpaper with floral accents. A circular table sat in the centre of the room and windows opened to the conservatory. High shelves were littered with old limited edition santa coke cans, covered in dust. Chairs were tucked into the table, but for years while I was too small, I had a step-stool I’d sit atop in order to be level with the rest of the family. Once again, as my parents earned more, the place lightened up. Appliances got nicer, the rangehood less noisy. The counter became granite. Still, it was never not comfy. A dining room adjoined, with a nicer rectangular table, a liquor cabinet and a dresser with “the nice plates”. Silverware, crystal glasses, you get the score. As a kid I didn’t care for it, I just wanted my plastic cow cup. The dining room and second lounge were separated by a dormant fireplace/chimney. A great amp filled the room with music, while tall windows let in light and gave a perfect place to watch streetside passers by.
The conservatory, visible from the kitchen and accessible through the laundry room, was filled with plant life. Wicker furniture gave the perfect place to read a book, but I’d be hard pressed to think of myself ever spending much time in there. I once grew a small avocado plant from a seed and my reward was finding a place for it to sit in the conservatory. The room joined the house to the double garage, a dim place where my dad had a small workshop (where we’d use the vice to crack macadamia nuts), countless paint cans and our sports/beach gear. Oh, and two cars. When I got old enough I’d have parties there, so as not to spill on carpet. For my brother’s bartmizvah he hired a stack of arcade machines, fulfilling a childhood dream of mine.
Walking upstairs (where we used to put mattresses and slide magic carpet style down) from the garage took you to another bedroom. My brothers’ bedroom for years, it had a little deck, a bathroom and windows all around. When they moved out, my parents renovated and I got brand new carpets, wooden blinds, a purple (aubergine, actually) microfiber couch and a feature wall to match. I also inherited a gorgeous old gilded folding screen. It was an amazing room where I had everything I needed: A queen bed, TV/playstation, computer, bathroom (with shower and sloped roof to constantly bump my head on). It was by far the nicest room I’ve lived in to date.
That’s as far as the virtual tour goes. The memories are endless, as you’d expect from an 18 year history in one place. I’ve never claimed for my childhood to be anything less than idyllic. If anything, this just hammers home how true that is. I had a loving family, tons of friends, a neighbourhood I could walk around freely without a trace of danger. We weren’t rich, but I never wanted for anything serious. I lived around the corner from a small theatre, across from a beach/bay. There were small caves to explore, endless roads to bike around. I walked to school every morning and I’d pass two dairies on the way. I was lucky in so many ways and I’m still infinitely thankful for everything I had.
It’s no wonder I still dream of Queen Street when I think of home. If you were born into a dream, it’s hard for anything else to compare.