When we turned the corner on the freeway on the way into Sydney and I caught a glimpse of that oh-so-familiar skyline, I waited for the feeling to settle.
That feeling of homecoming. Of nostalgia, of “this was always my place, and it knows me, and I have come home.”
But the feeling never came. I thought, “There it is, I know that place,” and that was that.
The next day we took a walk into Surry Hills, where I had lived and was happy for many years. At every corner I said to Mr B and the children, “We used to go for work drinks in that pub,” and “I used to walk my dog in that park and there was always a man walking a white rabbit,” and “Let’s go in here, they make the best fresh juices in the city.”
But this was no homecoming. It was as though I was narrating somebody else’s life, a television show that I had watched over and over until I knew it by heart, and maybe I had even imagined myself into the show sometimes, but it wasn’t REALLY me.
Later, we drove into the Blue Mountains to help celebrate my father’s 70th birthday. On the way up, past the local movie theatre, past my high school, past the paddocks and trails where I used to ride my horse, I tried it again. But there was nothing.
Not even when I watched my children play with their cousin and their grandparents, which was pure joy.
I don’t know why I wanted to feel like Sydney was a homecoming. Why did I need it? I LOVE living in Melbourne. Living here is the best life I’ve had since I left New York. I don’t want to move back to Sydney. In fact, I feel a mild flutter of panic every time I think of it (which is weird, because my life in Sydney was actually pretty good).
So, why did I go searching for ghosts? Maybe I felt like I just ought to. I mean, how can you live for such a long time in one place, and not feel SOMETHING when you return? I don’t have the answer.
And then twice, I felt it.
The first time, it was during a sunny morning spent at the beach with one of my dearest friends, Sarah, and her beautiful baby girl. I was never a beach-dwelling Sydney-sider but that morning, watching my children build sand castles and make friends with waves, sitting beside the friend I hadn’t seen in three years although it felt like only yesterday, was like coming home.
The second time was when we arrived back at our house in Melbourne a day early, and an hour past the children’s bedtime. They were hungry and exhausted, but they greeted this house like a long-lost parent.
“Look at these new chairs! They are LOVELY!” gasped Scout, about the same chairs we had had since before she was born. And then my darlings made their way into the playroom and reacquainted themselves with all of their toys, one toy at a time. Each toy was held and celebrated and cuddled. Cherished. Everything was as though it was precious and their best. The absence of 10 days had made their hearts grow fonder.
And seeing their happiness, I knew I had come home.