It strikes me as odd that a girl from the country can be so comfortable in the city. I mean, anyone who thinks Canberra as a ‘city’ is deluded, because it’s really just a large country town. But that’s not what I mean about being a country girl.
I was born in a small town on the Murray River, where the river red gums stand tall and proud and the Murray cod are only good for fertiliser or yabby bait. My granddad had a farm out of town, I can’t remember how long it used to take to get there, but some days it seemed like hours, others it was quick as a flash. He had one of the largest farms in the area, with multiple water rights, and the main income of the farm was rice, then sheep, cattle and oats, barley, wheat with a couple of race horses thrown in for good measure. The pool room (yes, an actual pool room) was covered in picture frames. Not of the family though, but of winning shots of his horses crossing the finish line.
I loved that house, even if I was a timid little lass, and I recognise some of my favourite things are because of that house; the bamboo reeds that grew in the creek by the chicken yard and we used to play in (which my uncles have recently told me ALWAYS had snakes in them); the weeping willows just a little further down toward the front of the property that I used to make crowns out of; the smell of geraniums, particularly love the red ones, because they were across the back veranda and all around the house. Even down to the bath mats and the red linoleum floor. It was here, too, that I discovered Footrot Flats and Snoopy, and have taken the recent passings of Murray Ball and John Clarke as heavily as one does that of anything deeply seeded in childhood nostalgia.
That place was damn scary at night though! The wind would howl and scratch the trees at the windows, and the dunny was outside with its own path and colony of Daddy Long-legs. Waking my dad up or asking for a chaperone to the toilet was mandatory, sometimes even during the day or early morning, it was still too far or too ominous of a journey.
I can not stand The Choirboys, un-Australian I know. But I had one uncle who seemed to be playing that bloody Run to Paradise song ALL THE TIME! I find myself singing to it, much like you do any annoying jingle or song that is engraved in your brain, but I don’t enjoy it. I sometimes get a memory of my uncle Leo that coincides with it, but that only happens once in a while. Which, in a lot of ways, makes me sad that he doesn’t enter my mind more often. He also played some Midnight Oil, and I wish it was this that triggered his memory.
Even after moving to the Canberra area we were living in a small town around 30-40 minutes out of the city. So much of our lives occurred in and around this town, yet a part of me always felt like I needed to find my feet back among the red gums. I have often wondered if, had we moved into Canberra itself, the same sense of community and small town values would be as prevalent in my everyday make-up. There was a distinct difference between a town you were born in which held your families history, and the town you move to and create a life from the start. Somehow community does not seem as straightforward or natural. I wonder if my hometown had the same cliques and partially opened doors to newcomers that my new town did?
What I do know is that I am, at the core, a country mouse (as Cam on Modern Family would put it), and I am more than OK with that. I also know that this country mouse has reached a point that the things that helped shape her and have blended into her psyche and personality are things that are helping her transition into a city mouse. That’s not to say that I will ever lose my values, or my heart, or any of the warm, rural qualities that I can now identify make me the gentle person I am. Rather, it shows the adaptability of my nature. The almost chameleon-like ability to blend, yet to maintain my own self.
And my Murray River town of birth, where the foundations of Me were laid and the history of my family hangs in the wind, is a mere 290kms away. Though all but a great aunt have moved away, friendships that were sisterhoods once upon a time have been renewed and invite me back with open arms and hearts.
I’m on my way guys, even if just to have one more pie at the local footy.