The plane is waiting on the runway. My eyes are tired, stinging from the early morning, the long drive from home to the airport, and the long wait. Rush to the airport only to wait in long lines, following other people who also rushed to the airport, only to wait. We have our seats, the ones we booked months ago, and we are waiting to depart.
I look out of the window, watching the rain fall on the tarmac and dribble along the plastic windows; long trails left behind the beaded drops of water. Outside is Tullamarine, and beyond that Melbourne. For the past 33 years Melbourne has been the largest city closest to home, and once the plane lifts off the ground, it will fall behind the horizon until we return, we are not sure when that will be.
In my tired state I think of changes I want to make to my fitness. “I should start running along the beach.”, and I think about the path between Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads, the salt bush trailing along the dunes, the dark sea as it stretches beyond the edge of the world to Tasmania. Can’t do that, I won’t see Ocean Grove for a year.
Maybe I could ride - I tend to get fit faster if I ride a bike. The rain falls heavier onto the outside window, as I realise that I sold my bike and have the cash stashed in my wallet.
Changes. These plans for fitness visit me multiple times a week, and for the first time I cannot predict what I will be able to do. I cannot change my actions, or imagine starting down any path because I cannot imagine our destination. Can I ride a bike, or go for a run? Even before then we have to cross one of the longest countries in the world. Maybe I could run from bears?
A few nights before this same understanding had come to me, while I was watching the bonfire flame dwindle in the cold night air. Everything will be different, things will change, and I am unsure what it will look like.
Friends, family and fire
The boys don’t need any encouragement to light sticks on fire, especially when the pile is super high and we have friends coming over to stand around burning embers, and talk, late into the cold night. Tonight we are having a bonfire to say farewell to our friends and family.
Two days ago the boys carved sticks into spears, and tonight they are sitting in the paddock pushing the sharped ends into fire lighters. Lots of sticks, one for every child, are set alight and then heaved onto the bonfire.
The fire burns, taking up the refuse, and sending long tentacles of flame into the air. We all move closer to feel the heat, stepping out of the cold breeze, and the kids walk around, inspecting the fire to make sure all of the sticks will catch fire. “It’s not as good when we used bows and arrows last time.” Levi tells me. “But, it was okay.”
Friendships are made in times like these. Long, lingering discussions, that start in small gatherings, and grow deeper as time pulls you closer together. Conversations that start around small things (like a bonfire), and grow bigger, delving deeper into more personal topics. I remember two years ago standing around a fire like this with the Millers, listening to Roger and Tony talking about ‘Murica and politics.
Life is like that, small things grow, and in time you realise that a friendship has started, where there was none before. Time, and stories, have twined together to bring you closer to the same place. Growing together over time, makes parting so difficult.
And family. We would not be the way we are today without them. We share a property and a house with Jacqui’s parents, and live less than a kilometer away from my parents. We catch up with our siblings on a regular basis, and share a meal and a laugh with them. We are in regular communication with at least one brother or sister, and love spending time with them. If family are friends you don’t get to choose, then we couldn’t have not-chosen a better bunch to hang out with.
We have spent the last few months thinking about saying goodbye, and due to packing and thinking about getting around, we have not thought about “the dreaded goodbye”. Yet, standing around the burning sticks, with family and friends, it is hard to not think about it.
I look around at the bonfire and see faces of people who have built up our community. Our closest friends and family, who have stood besides us, or listened to our woes, or given words of wisdom. Our support, those who have given things more precious than we can ever say thank you for - their time. Our community, that we will not see face-to-face for a long time.
We will be on the road and not see these dear people. It made me feel sad, made me feel like I wanted to stay home and not travel. “The idea was great, the plans were fun, and the trip would have been the best thing ever - but I’m good thanks. I’ll stay home, and we’ll travel a little later on.”
Adventure is Upon Us
Running from bears? What else can I expect from a tired brain? Getting up at 4:00am has made me wonder about fitness while we sit on the edge of the biggest adventure our family has been on. I shake my head, and rub my stinging eyes.
“Joash, press pause and look out the window.” I say across to the window seat. He has settled down to watch Thunderbirds on the screen in front of him. The engines wind up, and start thundering, he smiles and looks as the plane starts down the runway, pressed back into his seat from the acceleration.
“This feels weird.” The boys all say as the plane lifts from the ground, weightlessness for a split second as the plane departs home soil. “Home soil”, down below is Melbourne, the city growing further away, as the plane pulls the wheel up and takes to the skies, off toward New Zealand, then Canada.
Down below are all the people, friends and family, the places we know and love, all of them getting smaller as the plane departs Home and takes us onward, toward the unknown. The one thing that we take away with us, from all those we hold dear, nothing can take away, is the memories we have created together. They are coming with us, and will eventually call us home.