Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?
Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.
Pondering the 12th year of my birth… 1974, a year of unprecedented upheaval, where life as I knew it changed dramatically. That was the year The Brisbane River burst its banks and over 8,000 homes were flooded. The year Stevie Wright’s Evie hit the top of the Australian singles charts. The year Cyclone Tracy devastated the city of Darwin.
Backtrack to 1971… I was 9 years old and my mother had just remarried. Both his & her houses were sold. They sold all our furniture. Sold my books and toys. My mother told me to say goodbye to my friends because we would never be back.
I remember thinking 2 things; what friends and NEVER?
We moved into a rental house for six months; during that time I watched my new stepfather build a mobile home on the back of an old Dodge. It looked ugly. I hated it. And the idea of leaving all I’d ever known terrified me.
By the time I turned 12 we had traveled every state in Australia in that mobile home, living a few months here… a few nights there. We traveled highways and dirt tracks, forded flooded rivers and outran bush fires. And I loved her. “The Old Girl” our home on the back of a Leyland Dodge. She could take us anywhere and did. She could stand strong in any weather. My home, my zone, my classroom and my ungainly chariot around Australia.
There is something thrilling about waking up with new vistas as your backyard… rivers, desert, rainforest… a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean or the vast Pacific. Sometimes a city and oftentimes a rural community of less than 50 people.
In 1974, shortly before my 13th birthday we ‘hit the road’ after an extended stay of 12 months in Broome Western Australia. For the first time I had mixed feelings about moving on. On one hand I did miss the open road. I missed the never-ending panorama of the Australian bush. I missed the excitement of sleeping somewhere new almost every night. But I had grown fond of Broome… where my backyard was Cable Beach 22 km (14 miles) long with pure unspoiled sand, washed by tides that reach over 9 m (30 ft). Broome… where the nearest Capitol city was 1106.55 kilometers or 790 miles away.
These days the population of Broome hovers around 12,766 people I don’t know what it was back then, I only know how much I loved it there, how the colloquial history and adventurous pearl diving industry fed my schoolgirl imagination.
I was caught in a turmoil of mixed emotions as we readied the Old Girl for travel. And a genuine sadness set in as I watched the mobile home pull out from under the big tree that had sheltered us for so many months.
I silently watched out the window as the truck turned familiar corners, drove passed shops I knew… the park… the beautiful bay where pearling luggers sat high upon the tide.
As the truck turned onto the main road out of town and I saw that long ribbon of baking highway, a small thrill tickled in my toes. I gazed at the bushland in rolling vista and felt a smile crease my face. This felt good.
Not more than 30 miles out of Broome I noticed something that clawed at my stomach and for a brief moment rendered me speechless. When I found my breath I screamed FIRE, my eyes riveted to the rear view mirror and the flames that snapped at the back of the truck like demon fire-dog.
My stepfather slammed on the breaks, trying to slow the big rig down fast enough for us to escape. But that fanned the flames into a wall of ravenous fire. The flames shot towards the front, straight for the cabin where we all sat.
Blurred moments of panic followed. But we all escaped relatively unharmed. We stood in a small family group further down the road, just watching as the home we loved was devoured.
The fuel tank exploded. As did three gas bottle and an assortment of jerry can’s filled with petrol. All in all there were 6 or 7 explosions. I lost count. We watched as our mobile home, The Old Girl, was reduced to rubble and melted metal. So intense was the fire the tar road melted.
And there was nothing we could do but stand, sit, and weep, at the edge of road, and wait for a passing vehicle.