Monday, 7 March 2011

Planting the seed

My maternal grandparents owned a general store and post office in a small Gippsland town when I was born. They sold it while I was still a toddler, but I have vague memories of visiting them there, of 'helping', of grandad giving me lollies despite mum's instructions to the contrary. After selling the store they travelled every winter and returned to Victoria for the summers. They weren't old, still in their forties.

On one of their trips they discovered opal. They were hooked: for the next 30 years they mined and fossicked for the elusive silica. For many years their home base in Victoria was our shed, then later they bought a house in Heathcote. It was to this house that my brother and I were travelling when we'd heard about David McComb's death. It was just a day trip, but it was to change all our lives in ways we couldn't have foreseen...

Grandad had been a carpenter and he was curious about the state of the house and how the renovations were going. We chatted while grandma prepared lunch. There was always a huge garden at Heathcote and meals were invariably enormous, all the vegies straight from the garden, often a loaf of homemade bread, usually fresh berries and nectarines to follow. I would always eat too much, but the food was too good to refuse. The mealtime conversations were as nourishing as the food: politics, sport, books, current affairs. On this occasion we talked about what I had planned after I'd sold up in Collingwood. I'd been thinking about being somewhere more rural after a decade living in Melbourne and London.

This was my rough plan: buy a block of land somewhere around Tonimbuk, close enough to work in the city and to partake in those things I loved about living in Melbourne; enough space to create a bucolic retreat; not too far to get home to visit my family. The vision I had was to take the money from my Collingwood house and invest it in the land, plant it out with trees and then by the time I was ready for a less urban life the forest would be established. As I talked about my plan Grandma and Grandad sat quietly, listening attentively...

When I'd finished they started: they'd been thinking about selling Heathcote and moving back to Gippsland to be closer to family as they got older. They proposed combining my money with theirs and living on my block as my trees grew, that one day we could share the land... It made perfect sense. They could maintain the land while I lived in the city, together we could afford more than I could on my own, we'd support one another once I moved onto the land... It sounded idyllic. 

The music may have died that day, but the seed had been planted...

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