I’m an Australian ex-pat. Not the most ocker girl you’ll ever meet – I lack the intense nasal quality so befitting this category of my countrymen, but I’m true Aussie stock none-the-less. I’ve been residing in the States for over a decade now and have growing fears I’m forgetting how to be Australian as I fanatically sip Starbucks coffee & complain about the antics of Trump. I’ve spent my entire adult life learning the ways of the Yanks. I’ve done all my adult “growing up” here. I know more about gun control issues & the US Customary System than I ever wanted to. I measure in inches, drive in miles, say “diaper” & “trunk”. I can sing the anthem, though I don’t, recite the pledge of allegiance, which I won’t, and have ticked off more American cities & National Monuments than I ever have in my homeland. I’m grateful for what America has given me. But America isn’t home.
Though my children are born and raised in this great nation, I long to take them back to a time in a country that is more familiar and nostalgic to me. It may have changed drastically, in fact, I’m sure it has. But in many ways it will never be too far off from the life I lived as a sweaty-faced, sunburned kid growing up in the suburbs of Perth. A childhood filled with days eating icy-poles & Bubble-O-Bill’s as they dripped down our sticky little hands, afternoons spent throwing boondies at each other & building yellow sand forts, trips to Inglewood swimming pool where I took lessons with my school class every year, evenings eating white snapper & a “couple dollars” worth of vinegar chips out of folded butchers paper by the beach, Sundays hiking Bell’s Rapids or playing footy at Whiteman Park, visiting the joeys at Caversham Wildlife Park.
As a kid, I remember epic school sports carnivals where you barracked for your faction. Your families were in attendance as you dashed around your events, working hard to win a ribbon in your personally screen-printed shirt with bright blue, red, green or yellow spray crusting up your proud carnival hairdo, while they cheered for your team, usually named an aboriginal word like Maloo or Waratah.
I remember the best BBQ’s consisted of sausages, grilled onions & tomato sauce enveloped in a piece of Wonderbread, potato salad, Burger Rings, Pasito soft drink (anything but orange Fanta!), all things Cadbury. We would have street parties at Christmas in the warm Summer air, Father Christmas in stubbies & a tank, wrestling 6 white boomers. There were neighbourhood cricket matches played against big green wheely bins that stank in the heat. There was Constable Care, Fat Cat, Blinky Bill (to name a few) who taught childhood lessons, and when it was time for mindless entertainment, there was always Neighbours.
Maybe things seem better than they were in retrospect. Most things do. But after all these years assimilating to my new country, I still find myself a stranger here. An outsider. Different. You’d think in a country comprised of such diversity I wouldn’t feel so out of place, but I do. The charm of my accent holds appeal to people for a short amount of time as I am regarded a novelty, asked to recite any and all cliche` Australianisms for their entertainment, until eventually it’s a tired gimmick & they move back to their own kind.
Perhaps my kids would feel that way in Australia? Only ever half fitting in. Being exciting for a second, then boring the next. I hope not. I hope my country does me proud when I bring my children home. Visions of quick-witted sarcasm & big smiles, warm welcomes, generous hospitality. That’s what I remember. The “don’t take yourself too seriously” attitude that buoys the Aussie life along in a constant state of jest. Qualities I find embedded in myself that aren’t always received as intended in foreign lands.
I have dreams of fulfilling my “Clancy of the Overflow” fantasy & taking up droving somewhere out west. Of watching kangaroos bound across red desert plains, blasting throatily-sang rock anthems appreciating the land we call our home. I miss sharing inside jokes about tv commercials from the 90’s that still get daily references & chuckles. Freely & understandably exclaiming things like, “Stone the flamin’ crows!” or “Strewth!” I even miss avoiding going past my ankles as I wade through the coastline of my Western beach shores, never being brave enough to conquer my “healthy fear of the ocean”. I can still recall the smell of wet, fresh eucalyptus after the rain – one of my all time favourite smells.
But for all the things I remember & miss, there are equal parts terror hanging on to each memory that I have somehow forfeited my claim to call myself true blue. Will I fall right back in to place when the time comes? Will I recall the right words at the right time to express myself? And when I don’t, will I still have the ability to laugh at myself without shame? When I go home, will it still feel like home?
I probably shouldn’t worry. Even writing about my feelings is so un-Australian. I should probably just grab a beer & a mate, eat a pie in my double-pluggers and watch the lightning crack over cane fields, laugh and say “I am Australian” …. (Ha! See what I did there? … Don’t worry, I’ll get better at it)