For approximately the last 50 years, the family ‘homestead’ has been a house and around 2 acres of land, perched on the side of a hill overlooking the Puffing Billy tourist railway line, in Selby, Victoria. My oldest memories of any house are of it, and most of my growing up happened there. It was the house where mum cooked countless meals and backed home made bread, where we had the evening meal around the kitchen table as a family, the house where I would run to the window with the best view of the Puffing Billy steam train when I heard it whistle from down the hill, the place from which dad and I would embark for walks in the nearby Sherbrooke Forest, from which we would embark on Pathfinder camps, and the place we returned to after our adventures. It was the place where dad’s awe inspiring vegetable garden and fruit trees, and the outdoor ‘dunny’ was, and where dad kept goats that provided us with fresh milk.
It weathered countless storms and survived the threat of bushfires (especially the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires, which got to within a few kms of the house), was the place where us children honed our youthful hijinx skills, where I learnt to ride a bicycle, where I purchased and built my first model railways (with help from dad and mum) and where mum encouraged me to take up stamp collecting. I still enjoy cycling and model railways today (in fact they are two of my main interests), and I still have the stamp collection I built up all those years ago although I don’t actively buy stamps to collect like I did back then.
After I left home, around the age of 25 and especially as I moved further away, it became the place to go to visit mum and dad, and even then when I heard Puffing Billy approaching I would make a bee-line to the nearest window with a view of the railway line or hurriedly make my way down the ‘paddock’ to get a good view and maybe a photo or two of the train as it passed by.
After I married and had a family of my own it seemed like Rebecca, me and the kids were constantly moving – probably because at time of writing this we have lived in 17 houses in 28 years in various towns from central, eastern, north eastern and western Victoria, and southern NSW. That family home in Selby continued to give me a sense of stability, even though I hadn’t lived in it for many years. It was like an anchor, seemingly immovable and constant. But like us all, that house wore out over the years. As dad become less agile and more fragile, and the house got to the point where it needed major work on it, dad (somewhat reluctantly, I might add) and mum decided they needed to sell up and move into a smaller, more easily accessible, dwelling.
In March this year (2022), dad passed away, and at the time of his passing the house was already ‘under contract’ to be sold. On 29th August 2022, the house changed ownership, and so it is no longer accessible by our family. I know mum and dad needed to move, and it was best for them to sell and move to a more manageable dwelling, and I’m glad they decided to move.
But with the house passing out of family ownership I feel a palpable sense of loss. With the house passing into the ownership of others the sense of loss connected with the family homestead seems very final, knowing that I will no longer be able to visit the family homestead ever again.
At least I still have the memories, and photos and slides.