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Effie goes home

an imaginative story remembering home in 1940's Sydney by Bev Cameron

Hello, Flo! How are you? Yes, it's me, Effie! Yes, I'm fine. Yes, I know it's early, but I just had to call you and tell you about the exciting day I had yesterday.

What did I do? Flo, you won't believe this - but, then, you know me, so you probably would - I took it into my head to go back after all these years and look at my old family home. Yes... yes, it was a good thing to do, Flo. It took me right back to my childhood. But let me tell it to you from the beginning. What? Oh, all right, go and get yourself a pot of tea. I'll wait.
Are you settled now? Well, I took a bus down the main street, got off at the top of my old home's street and walked down slowly, seeing what I could remember. Oh, Flo, such a lot has changed! But would you believe it, my old home is still there and looks just as I remembered it. From the outside it is no different after all these years. And even the five lillipilli trees out in the street in front of it are still there! I used to climb in them and eat the little pink berries. No, Flo, they didn't make me sick, but they weren't very sweet - rather crisp, a bit like apple.

Anyway, I just stood gazing and gazing at the house, remembering the poppies that grew in the garden just behind the front fence and the fish fern that grew thickly along the side path and the delicious smell on my fingers when I picked the tops off them. And I remembered the old neighbours in the houses on either side and my playmates, Dell and Peter Quinn who lived in the house across the street - it's gone now, sadly. How long did I stay there just looking? Well Flo, I must have been standing there 10 minutes, just lost in memories when the front door opened and a young woman came out to see me. I felt a bit silly, because I must have looked odd. After all, what could an old woman like me want so much that she would stand and stare at a house. Oh, don't be like that, Flo! I know I look a bit eccentric, so there's no need to remind me.

1945Anyway, when I explained who I was, she was very sweet and said, if I didn't mind the mess inside, I would be welcome to have a look in there too. She said it isn't her house - she just rents if. What a coincidence, I thought. We didn't own it either. So there I was, entering that house again after 60 years! Yes, Flo. That's right - the inside hasn't been changed much either. The lovely wide hallway isn't covered with the shiny blue lino of our time, of course, and where it leads into the kitchen has a door and not the soft brown curtains that I loved playing with, but I could picture my sister Ros and me sitting on the cool floor on hot days playing with our dolls easily enough. Alright, Flo... you're right. That was before I was so taken up with feminism! Yes, I liked playing with dolls! When Dad bought us a Meccano set, he was the only one interested in playing with it!

I glanced in the main bedroom which now has pale modern furniture in it, and remembered the rose patterned carpet and dark timber furniture of my parents' time. They used to sit on the seat in the bay window when Dad came in from work and talk to each other. Ros and I always wanted to go in to them then, but we were not allowed while they were talking. Of course, all the blackout blinds are long gone. Yes, Flo, that's right - I was there during the war years. I remember the search lights in the sky at night and the air raid shelter in the back yard. And I recall the weekend of fun we had filling it in when the war was over. Dad had a hip injury and had to do war service at home. I can still remember the uniform he had to wear. One of his sisters got married to an air force engineer while we were living there. It was so exciting as my sister and I were the flowergirls and the wedding reception was at our house. My aunt looked so beautiful in her dusty pink going away dress trimmed with bugle beads. And she had a little navy satin pillbox hat on her head. How exciting that wedding was. Mother had to use nearly all our ration coupons to buy the organdie for our dresses. That was a big sacrifice.

Yes, Flo, as a matter of fact, I do have a photo of that wedding. I'll show it to you one day. It certainly shows you how wedding dress fashions have changed.

Anyway, I had a quick look into the lounge and dining rooms which are still separated by a high wooden arch. As a child, I was always reminded of the harbour bridge when I looked at it. That arch was a great help at Christmas when Mother got out all the paper decorations because she could attach them to it and then drape the streamers across the room. Do you remember those pretty folding paper balls that we used to hang from the ceiling in those days as decorations? Oh, I did love them! And I loved the Christmas table and the crowds of family who came to enjoy it with us. After lunch we would go out into the back yard and sit on rugs under the orange tree drinking ginger ale and lemonade and eating Christmas cake. Such fun! Did you do that sort of thing, Flo?

dairyWell, I didn't want to impose too much on this young woman's courtesy, Flo. So I just glanced around the backyard, remembering the choko vines that grew on the back fence and the noisy chook yard. But I didn't hurry back to the bus. I walked slowly, remembering the call of the clothes prop man, the hooves of the horses that clopped along pulling both the milko's cart and the baker's cart. I remembered the piles of fresh manure on the road. I thought about the ice man running in with blocks of ice held in long mean looking tongs, and Mr Osborne the grocer bringing his box of supplies for us. I recalled Mr Merlino, the greengrocer and his Italian accent as he talked to us and my friend Teddy Anderson with the scar on his chin playing in the street.

Oh, Flo, it was a wonderful journey down memory lane. I'm so glad I did it. It tells me I had a very happy childhood and a good start in life. You should try a memory trip for yourself sometime. Now, what have you been doing?

Photo top right is of a Chatswood home Bev Cameron lived in as a child
Photo of two flower girls is of Bev and Ros Cameron

Owner of originalBev Cameron
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