A journey back to the family home this week had me uncharacteristically surprised (I write a lot of lists and check every room in my house four times before going on holiday, surprise and I never go for coffee). It wasn’t the jet lag, the seeing of people I went to school with who now have about 18 children or the fact that my mother called me to check up on THE DOG, it was the weather. I came totally unprepared for the climate change presented to me.
When you spend most of your childhood in one place, you pretty much think you own it. From the road rage you feel when driving with non locals, to the best bakery (Pt Elliot) or knowing if you order a schooner or a pot, you feel a sense of unique familiarity and comfort on arrival in your home town. That is until you turn up in open toe shoes and a cardigan when you should be sporting that Icelandic knit you so love.
With a confidence akin to my recent foray into mini van pole dancing I bounced into my old city with a spring in my step not weighed down by the fortunate burden of additional clothing (much like my pole dancing). This decision proved to be one of the worst a weather watcher can make, as I was chilled to the bone in a freezing whirlwind (weather to the extreme!!) trip that crossed two Australian states. What was I expecting? Put simply, warmth. I hadn’t been away for that long, roughly over a year, but what greeted me on arrival (apart from lovely smiles and grown up babies) was the pre-winter chill I had completely forgotten about.
From this week at ‘home’ I deduced that we acclimatise to our current surroundings, subtly influencing our weather muscle memory (which is definitely not something I just made up). We buy clothes to adapt to our new surrounds, we use heaters in a way our mother would never have approved of (“just put on a jumper”), we know what it means to include parsnips in our diet and we begin using the new weather vernacular common in our adopted home. Sounds obvious, I know, but when we become used to our new environment we seem to forget the one we were formally familiar with, which stands in complete contrast to our ownership of it when we return.
My newly developed home time weather ignorance made me think about what else surprises us on a return visit to the family abode. Is it the greying hair on our parents? (Damn straight. They don’t call my Dad ‘Richard Branson’ for nothing. And by ‘they’ I mean my brothers. ‘They’ also call him Old Man Winter. Poor guy). Is it the fact that there’s a new dog on the scene to replace the one which died 2 months ago, a small piece of news every family member thought they’d told you but didn’t? (Yes. See aforementioned ‘checking in’ on the new dog…) Is it that your brothers now showcase a commanding physical presence but still refuse to pack the dishwasher or be designated driver? It’s all of the above and everything else, the small changes that develop in an environment which, in essence, always feels the same.
So besides knowing I’m not winning a packing room prize anytime soon, this climate change made me feel a little more distant from my home. Not in a bad way, in fact it was almost in a more inviting way. It’s like there’s still more the ol’ hometown can teach us, and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a local veggie pasty on offer better than one you discovered 10 years ago.
Adelaide tomorrow, I’d actually be okay with open toed shoes and Basil* certainly won’t be needing his puppy jumper…