A pink flamingo, about a metre high, stands on my right. on its two shiny black legs and little black webbed feet. It’s looking back over its plumed tin torso. Its beak looks like a mini banana. Beyond that is a box filled with newspaper wrapped crockery. Further behind, and filling the usually sparsely stacked shelves of my workroom are pots, a kettle, a second-hand microwave oven and who knows what else. My spare room has temporarily become the repository of my daughter’s ‘glory box’. She’s not getting married. She’s just stockpiling prior to moving out.
For me, it’s bitter-sweet.
Yep. She’s leaving home. My baby girl. My Didi. The second of my two adult children. She’s twenty-three. As with everything in my children’s lives, her imminent departure – she leaves in about six weeks - is both a signifier and an opportunity for vicarious enjoyment. There’s one thing about my daughter: she lets me share – especially if I’m carrying my credit card.
I first moved out of home at eighteen. My sister, her friend and I moved into a tiny two up two down terrace in Fitzroy in 1974. This was pre-gentrification, pre-uber cool bohemian Fitzroy. No phone. No mod cons. No heating. (Quite third world actually if some of the places I’ve stayed in in Vietnam are any indication.) Just our single beds, taken from home and a bean bag each: two black and one yellow. We rented a black and white TV. Any other furniture came from the op shop. I upholstered an old bridge chair in brown and red corduroy patchwork. (It’s on my right just by the flamingo. Good investment. Probably paid fifty cents for it.) I was a student cycling up the road to what was then Melbourne State College. Also had the mandatory VW.
Was a big shock for my mum when the pair of us moved out. She'd taken my eleven year old sister back 'home' to England for the school holidays. She’d left us alone with my father, who was inclined to rage and sulk. He was insufferable without my mum’s calming presence so my sister and I left. He didn’t try to stop us and he couldn’t if he had. (As a parent, I can’t imagine how she coped on her return to discover her eighteen and nineteen year old girls had left home.)
In retrospect, this is awful. I went on to suffer the most torrid relationship break-up, the emotional pain of which I could never have foreseen. Because let’s be honest. I’d moved out of home so I could have sex. Suppose that’s what drove us all out back in the seventies. The previous generation got married and pregnant, not necessarily in that order, at the same age. (Thank god for the pill.)
Twelve months later and six months after my relationship break-up I was huddled on the floor in the bare white passage, just inside the front door. Rejected again, I was sobbing uncontrollably, my face pressed against that bleak white cold plaster. Probably banged my head a couple of times for good measure. Inconsolable. Ah, the pain of nineteen. We didn’t take many photos in those days, technology being what it was, so the forty or so photos show us laughing fit to burst, looking gorgeous. Impossibly young. As if. Nineteen seventy five was the worst year of my life. Of course, there’s no photo of the sobbing head banger by the front door.
I moved back home to recover emotionally and live it up on my twenty dollar a week studentship, rather than spending that pittance on food, rent and petrol.
Daughter Didi is having an entirely different experience of moving. She’s done lots of the done things already, being the child of relatively permissive try-hard baby boomers. Moving out now is a positive, natural progression.
I’m missing her already. But very glad she’s taking the freaking flamingo with her.