A family of 4. It sounds quite typical, doesn’t it? Not for this little black duck- my family situation has always been a bit different to that of all my friends.
When I was 12 years old it was me, my Mum and her parents (Nan and Pop to me). Nan and Pop raised me more than what Mum actually did as Mum was only a child herself when she had me. Nan and Pop were parent figures to me, although I always knew that Mum was my Mum. It was just that we never got on as well as what my friends and their Mums did.
When I was 12 years old, we all lived (reasonably happily) in the house Pop had bought the year before he and Nan got Married. It was an old post-war home.
It was originally fibro with a corrugated iron roof, but over the years it had been clad with weatherboards and aluminium tiles.
My Pop had a beautiful garden in both the front and back yards. I loved to help him keep them looking their best. Weeding the gardens, mowing the lawns, fertilising, watering, dead-heading flowers, planting- I did it all, with Pop’s assistance that is.
Living in an older area (most people were around my grandparents ages), we would often have unofficial “garden competitions”. A lot of the time it was between us and a couple of other neighbours along our street.
Our house was on a 4 lane “main” road. We had a zebra crossing a couple of houses down the street from us and a large block of land across the road which had been the local hospital. The hospital relocated when I was about 7 years old. There were plans to do a lot with the land- an ambulance station, a community health centre, trauma centre, mothercraft society, nursing home… I think when I was 12, there may have been some of these buildings newly built here.
We lived in a Suburb on the cusp of becoming a city due to the number of people living there. It may have just become a city actually, I can’t remember exactly. There were only single storey houses near where I lived. There were only a couple of double storey places- I always looked at those houses like they were big mansions. Heck- I look at “brick houses” as being fancy, as compared to what I was living in… a brick house WAS fancy! (I would later grow up to understand living in a brick house isn’t fancy at all… living in an older house had a lot more character.)
A few blocks behind out house was a housing estate. It was full of Housing Commission houses (places the government rented out to low income/poor families). Unfortunately, around this time- the Estate got a nickname- “The Bronx”. It turned into a slum, there were a minority group of residents where the whole family did not have any respect or care for their home. Some would burn fires in close proximity to the house, there was an increase in violence, theft, burglaries, and hooliganism.
The media thought it would be a good idea to give a lot of attention to all the trouble that was happening and this in turn made things worse. Next thing we knew, there were often police helicopters hovering overhead, spotlights brightly shining down in our backyards looking for criminals.
Thankfully, the trouble was confined to that estate.
As strange as it sounds, it was still safe enough for me to walk my dog through that estate without worrying about being hurt. It was as though we had a mutual respect for each other.
The criminals and drug dealers knew we weren’t going to cause trouble so they left us alone. We left them alone because we had no need to interact with them, other than saying hi as we walked past each other (just to be friendly and community minded of course).
When I was 12, I lived in a little safe haven. A modest 3 bedroom house with 3 people who loved me and a lot of pets to keep me busy and out of trouble. I could walk to school in about ten minutes, had some great friends and didn’t really have anything to worry about.
How great it would be to be 12 years old again…..