A trip down memory lane…via City Link ™

A few weeks ago I took a little trip down memory lane.

Ah, memory lane. It sounds like a quaint little winding pathway, overhung with greenery and tinted with nostalgia, but in this case, the route I took was City Link ™, and Moreland Rd, a dull route which involves a lot of asphalt, tollway gantries, and congested intersections. Nevertheless, we got there – the destination being the house that my grandmother had lived in when we were kids.

I took this trip with my sister and two of my brothers. Due to the recent death of one of our brothers, even the guys seemed not only willing but quite interested, to come along and visit at some family memories together. Until September last year it was unheard of for Brother #1 to come along on any family outing…but since the death of his younger brother, he seems to be trying to change that. And my sister lives in Ireland and was only here for 4 weeks. So this little trip was pretty significant to all of us, for lots of reasons. In some ways, it wouldn’t really have mattered what the destination was, but this seemed like a nice expedition to do together.

Nana’s family bought their house in a suburb of Melbourne called Reservoir, in 1949, when Reservoir was on the outskirts of Melbourne. Nowadays, Melbourne has expanded and Reservoir is probably about half way between the CBD and the northern outskirts of Melbourne. It’s an area that I remembered from childhood as the height of concrete suburbia. I was probably about 18 when Nana was moved out to a nursing home and her house was sold, and I’ve never been back there since, so that’s the image that has remained.

To my surprise, on pulling up in front of her house, I discovered some of the tricks that memory can play over the years.

I’d remembered her street as being a very busy main road. It now appeared to me to be a fairly narrow little street, and no busier than any quiet residential suburban street. I now think my perception of it as a child was affected by coming from a country town. I used to lie awake in my grandmother’s large back bungalow at night and listen to the unfamiliar sounds of the city, and I would hear cars intermittently speeding up the street – sounds rarely, if ever, heard at night in the country town where I lived, so that fulfilled my childhood impression that it was a very busy street.

No doubt also, my perception as a child would have been affected by my parents and other adult relative’s perception of the street. I can recall that we kids were not even allowed to play in the front yard, for fear that we might end up out on the street. That sufficed as an indication that it was a very busy street, as opposed to my own home in a country town, where we could literally go out and play on the road if we cared to. (Well, we certainly rode our bikes on it, anyway.)

Seeing it for the first time as adults, the four of us stood and looked at the house for a while, pointing out changes, trying to recall what trees were gone, which ones had always been there (such as the unusual and old-fashioned row of tall cedar trees along the fence line, a very 1940’s touch). We wandered up the street a bit, to see if we could find the house that we had labelled as “haunted” when we were kids. Alas, not a sign of it now. If the house was still there, the dense garden of 10 feet high cactuses was gone, and it’s absence made the house unrecognisable.

After we’d taken in the house, we got back into the car to drive to the Lake reserve. All I remembered from my childhood about this, was a tediously long walk along another very busy road, and a big old train engine – which was a selling point for kids up to about the age of 11, but by the time I was a teenager, the reserve held nothing of any interest.

Rather halariously, we discovered that the Lake Reserve was a drive of about one minute away – barely worth getting into the car for. Once again, my perception at the time must have been effected by being so much younger that it seemed a long way, and so countrified that it seemed like the road was busy. It didn’t strike me as a particularly busy road now.

To our surprise, we all discovered that the Lake reserve was actually quite a lovely area hidden away in the middle of the suburban sprawl. The train engine is still there and still well maintained, although the sign of the changed times we live in now is that it is barricaded so that kids can only enter the cabin. The body of the engine, the carriage, and the wheels are all  screened off with fencing, clearly for fear of injury and public litigation. Ah well….at least it was still there!

There was birdlife everywhere. It seemed we’d stepped back into the past when a family arrived with a bag of bread to feed the birds, a pastime that is strictly forbidden nowdays at most wetland areas (including this one, where a sign requested that people did NOT feed “The ducks” – although there were surely many other kinds of birdlife there as well as ducks.) This felt like something I haven’t seen since I was last there as a kid – a family with a pre-planned bag of bread for the birds.

Birds at Edwardes Park Lake

Did someone say bread????

We strolled together around the lake, past wetland areas which were bird habitats, and I wondered if my sister and brothers were, like me, marvelling at how lovely this place was, when we’d written it off in our memories as dull and suburban. That was, of course, when we were teenagers. (What a shame for teenagers – that they are so caught up in extreme self-conciousness and self-absorption, and so repelled by anything that their parents admire, that they are unable to appreciate the beauty to be found around them. Or am I just talking about what I was like????)

We wandered back to the car. The demands of life meant that we had to end our trip there  – I needed to get home to meet some deadlines for work. I dropped my brothers home, and took my sister, via City Link ™, back to my place.

I think that little trip together meant a lot to all of us.

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