March Street

I have lived in so many houses that most of them were never home. To find home I have to go way back to the cane town, to when I was two or three, to the house that I know best and still dream about when it rains.

It is my grandparents' house, though they sold up years ago and now somebody else is there, cleaning up the yard and painting everything in fashionable colours.
It wasn't a fashionable house, as I knew it. The paint was a cracked yellow. The whole house sat high on its stumps and the shady underspace was filled with gappy palings.

Inside, it was still 1976. The curtains were a dusty striped netting, orange and brown, the backdrop of my childhood photos- when I was twelve; when I was born.
The kitchen tiles were pondscum green. All of the cupboards were crammed with orange tupperware, breadbaskets, cruets. The toaster had side-flaps that lowered like wings, and no timer. I ate a lot of burnt toast.

My favourite room was Grandad's room, a tiny closetty space with one high window and a lot of jars. I don't even know what was in most of them but I loved them- paperclips, and electronics components, and ballpoint pen lids, and those little pegs that you knock into pegboards.

The other rooms were huge, and echoed. The whole thing was timber. Long ago the verandas were all built in to make sleepouts, so the bedrooms had windows into other rooms.

Under the house was even better: Grandad kept his things there- motorbikes, more jars, wheelbarrows, tires. Grandma's tidy island of a laundry, in a sea of more motorbikes. There was an engineless car, too, a pinky-grey thing covered in the prints of the neighbour's cat. It just sat there. It was interesting to learn that people could keep something just for the value it used to have.

All around the back steps were red geraniums, and orange nasturtiums which I used to pick for the precious drop of nectar I could suck from the stem.
Under the stairs was a gardenbed bare except for aloe vera.

There was a macadamia tree and I used to sit in its deep shade, sorting fallen nuts from the drifts of leaves. I'd crack them awkwardly with an old hammer, sometimes thumping my thumbs and sometimes flattening the whole nut into a shell-crusted paste. I ate them anyway, spitting bits of shell back into the garden and twitching my feet to keep the ants off them.

The back fence wasn't even there, in the early days. My grandad walked with me to the place where the neighbours' side fences just stopped and our yard flowed out into the grassy flatlands of the vacant blocks beyond.

They're not vacant now. Grandad had to put up a fence when the development began and now there are identical ranks of grey roof showing over it. The yard feels smaller. It isn't; it is a whole huge rambling Queensland half acre, the sort you still find laying in their own shade behind those generous old houses. Yards and houses are disproportionate, today; the yards are cramped and crammed with multi-level entertainment areas and homogeneous paving, and the houses sit squatly over the resort-style palms.

Too many buddha statues, and not enough macadamia trees.