Canberra, you’ll always be home: A love letter to my former town
Cath Moore grew up in Canberra.Credit:
Hi, it’s me Cath. You might not remember but we broke up about 19 years ago.
When I left I thought it would be for good. A free-spirited 20-something with wild ideas and a tanked-up Datsun 180B, I’d wanted more than you had to offer. After finishing a hotchpotch degree at ANU I was going to become a primatologist or work in an obscure multi-syllabled field such as genetic anthropology. I’d had Richard Attenborough’s son as my teacher after all. Sadly there just weren’t enough awesome offspring of famous people to elevate your status beyond "just bearable".
It hadn’t been easy. In the '80s, being a chubby little brown kid with a white single mother wasn’t the norm. Experiencing racism both casual and hostile often left me feeling like a bruised outsider. So years later when I went overseas and realised there were other ways of being in the world, I knew I’d have to leave for good. But you burrowed deep into my subconscious and loomed large in my dreams, trying to make me remember what I’d rather forget.
I finally relented and came back for a visit. Though mum left years ago, my Italian godfather Massimo still lives there and fed me both gossip and pasta. I stayed with the "girl" I used to babysit. Despite the 10-year age gap, Haeli and I both have kids in grade 1. My son and her daughter fell in love. No one was at their wedding because they decided to get hitched around 6am one day, by walking around the dining room table holding hands.
And when I realise what you have become, Canberra, I’m wistful and full of wonder. Your wide-open skies. A slightly unsettling stillness; accustomed as I am to the soundscape of larger, less forgiving cities. Sunsets that linger over mountainous ranges, a perpetual still-life. Soon I’ve got my own Sound of Music lyrics playing in my head; ex-guvvie houses made out of bricks, little kids on bushwalks collecting long sticks. Sprinklers on playing fields, car parks galore, great vegan cafes and coffee what for!
For you are funky, progressive, self-assured. We both grew up and just because we’re not together anymore doesn't mean we can’t stay in touch. Seeing you through my child’s gaze, I realise my own past traumas have healed. Though my trip was full of melancholic memories the only thing I regret is not coming sooner. Canberra, to my surprise I think you’ll always be home.
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