There are so many paths I could take with this photo. It was taken at Karen’s 5th birthday party in the backyard of 10 Richardson Street, Box Hill South, where we grew up and where many birthdays and other events were celebrated until Mum and Dad moved out in the mid 90’s.
There’s Uncle Arthur skipping around the circle of kids playing drop the hanky. Mum sits to his left clapping her hands as they wait for the music to stop. Dad sits smiling at Arthur’s antics on the right hand side of the photo and the kids are a combination of neighbours and cousins. I have no idea who took the photo but I’m guessing like the other adults in the picture they too have now passed on.
Karen is sitting there in her party dress, short black hair watching Uncle Arthur. I think it’s our cousin Helen on the swing at the back of the yard with our other cousin Barbara beside her. I think that’s me sitting beside Dad with cousin Phillip beside me with his hands to his mouth.
In the back left hand corner is the outhouse and I have three memories of that, the smell, the blow flies and the night cart man who changed the pan over and walked out to his truck after hoisting the full pan onto his head. It was a great day when the sewerage went through and we ended up with an inside dunny for the first time. No more pans under the bed, no more trying to find a torch at night if you needed to go outside.
In those days our path was made from broken up packing crates thrown down on the weeds. It would be some years before we had concrete paths poured.
Karen’s birthday was three days before Christmas which for me meant that the big event of the year was just around the corner. I always felt sorry for her having to wait so long each year before her birthday came only to have the Christmas celebration follow on closely behind it.
Still, Mum and Dad, always made an effort to make the same fuss about her birthday as the rest of us and for most of our early years we had a party every year. Tarax lemonade, cocktail frankfurts, party pies and sausage rolls and bread sprinkled with hundreds and thousands, party hats, blurters and games, drop the hanky and pass the parcel, all of those things marked birthdays for us. There’d be dozens of cards arriving in the mail and most of those are still in a box I inherited when Mum died a couple of years ago.
That yard saw a lot of good times that I like to think still echo around the fenceline. Lot’s of laughs, the smell of Dad’s barbecues, the playfulness of our dogs over the years – a couple of them Noddy and Bamby are buried up against the back fence. That same fence saw us standing on it and talking across it to the Helliers who lived behind us. The trees in the back right were black wattles and Dad built me a tree house in them made out of an old ladder. When they got bigger I was able to climb them and walk across a branch onto the roof of the house where I could sit and look out to the north over the Box Hill Golf Course and the Gardiners creek Valley.
It was home.