A couple of years ago I went back to the suburb where I lived back in 1979. We rented a house there for about six months. I had not visited the area since moving away but I was curious to see how things had changed.
I had read the area had gone upmarket and that there were trendy shops in the nearby shopping area. However, I wasn't prepared for the changes. I would never have known I had been to the area before, let alone once lived there.
As soon as I got off the train I was aware of changes. When I lived there the train stop had been nondescript. Now there is a pleasant park next to the stop.
Park next to train stop. Image:Marie Vonow
I walked in the direction of my old home and noticed mosaics set into the pavement and a bench and artwork on stobie poles. Back in the late seventies there had been a few shops and that was it.
Bench decorated with mosaics. Image:Marie Vonow
I had to walk down the street where there were various shops. I remember a deli and a butcher were there back in 1979. My strongest recollection is of entering these shops and seeing all the notices in Italian, the language spoken by most of the locals at the time. The customers and shopkeeper were often speaking Italian and I felt uncomfortable not knowing what they were saying. I recall empathising with those immigrants living in areas where people don't speak their home language. It would be so socially isolating.
These days the people sitting outside the trendy cafes enjoying a mid afternoon coffee are from a variety of cultural backgrounds but I only heard English being spoken. The cars parked in the street were mostly modern and some looked expensive. I got the impression many of the people chatting over coffee were from other parts of Adelaide and had chosen to come here for the vibrancy and pleasant surroundings.
I continued walking, deciding to stop for a coffee on my way back. Soon I was at my 'old' street. Nothing looked familiar. I checked I was on the correct street.
As I walked down the street I had recollections of old cars and junk in front yards. There used to be numerous dogs running around the street. I stopped walking my dog soon after we moved there because of the other dogs that roamed around unrestrained. No dogs on the loose now. (Councils have stricter rules these days.)
I noticed the yards were generally well maintained and seemed much greener. The one house with rubbish and an old Holden station wagon in the front yard stood out like a sore thumb. I kept an eye on the house numbers and stopped when I got to number 53. I just looked at the house. It didn't look anything like what I remembered. Was I at the right house? I checked the number on the letter box again.
Eventually I decided I had found the house but it had been modernised, along with the neighbouring houses. How different everything looked. Nothing had any familiarity about it.
I wandered back in the direction of the cafes and trendy shops. As I sipped my coffee I had time for reminiscences of when I used to live in the area.
Were my memories coloured by the fact I was unhappy much of the time I had lived here? I had frequent throat and ear infections and even when I didn't have an infection my throat was constantly sore. Teaching with a constantly sore throat was a struggle. I couldn't even enjoy a good chat to friends.
There were other problems in my life at the time. My memories of living here are generally negative. Certainly, it looks like a nicer place to live now but how much of my feelings are because of the place itself and how much is because I was unhappy back then?
I decided the passage of over 35 years had made a big difference both to the area and to me personally. I am much happier now, both in terms of the area where I live and where I am emotionally.