BEYOND THE BOUNDARY LINE
Growing up, my parents always knew the neighbours that lived either side of our house.
When Easter came around, the retired couple up the road gave us freddo frogs.
When our soccer ball went over the fence and made the dog next door bark at us, the neighbour next door would throw it back over.
At the back of our yard, we made friends with the kids next door who we spent calm summer days with in our pool floating on an old surfboard and having handstand competitions with.
When I got my license, the neighbours let me park in their driveway if my dad was spending the day on some kind of car-related project. We’d chat about how the end of high school was going and what I wanted to be when I grew up. They congratulated me on getting into the course I wanted in Sydney and always caught up when I eventually visited home in the next four years I spent there.
When the neighbours down the hill bought a cafe, we visited them on weekends and they gave us leftovers from the day. My brother spent day’s up the hill at the green house, with his two mischievous friends. I spent it on the other side of the hill with my best friend climbing trees and watching movies back in 2003.
When we decided to steal the office chair on wheels from the study and try to ride it down the tarmac on the hill, the neighbours returning or leaving in cars waited for us to move aside.
When I turned 12, the neighbours across the road gave me $5 every time I walked their dog. My dad still delivers eggs and homegrown lemons to them even though they moved suburbs two years ago. I used to sit in their garage and play with the dog as my dad and his friend talked about motorbikes.
It’s been almost six years since I left that house on a hill.
I’ve since made homes in residential halls with a girl from Kenya and a guy who plays trombone as neighbours. I’ve lived in a terrace with a balcony and sat and watched the world with the sound of a saxophone as an afternoon symphony. I’ve lived in apartments in Toronto where I hadn’t seen a single one of my neighbours in five months. I’ve lived in a dream apartment in Sydney where I picked all the furniture and we knew the local grocer’s name and would walk to the farmer’s market to have a chat with the same barista every week. He was the same one that shouted me a coffee when I told him I was moving to London. I’ve lived in a 6 square meter room for a month in the outer suburbs of East London and learnt about the other half of my family.
Now, I’ve spent ten weeks alone in a two storey flat dead in the centre of London. It has a weird entryway, some sunny fire escape-esque stairs and a family that lives downstairs that has reminded me of the very first house I grew up in. Not because of the physicality of it, but the feeling of home and community and kindness. We share stories and herbs and afternoon chats in the sun. We take each other's mail to our doors and take each other’s trash out and wish each other well and water the plants and flowers on the stairs.
I’ve been guilty of rushing through my life and enjoying the transitory nature of it all. Sometimes I’m not in one place long enough to care about those on the other side of the walls. I wondered from time to time how my parents came to build such a passing kindness with those around them.
But now I know.
We’re all so human. We all feel so similarly and so distinctly different at the same time. These pockets of kindness are what make me feel like home, even miles away from the place where I learnt what that really was.