The Brisbane Series: Part III

Words by Maggie McDade

Published on August 8, 2011


In the lead-up to the launch of our first journal, Home is where, we will each be sharing a piece of writing anchored around our first experiences of Brisbane. This piece comes from Maggie, who moved to Brisbane from Toowoomba in 1999.

We came down the range in a white Commodore. Mum and Dad in the front, and Tom and me in the back eating salad sandwiches with beetroot-stained white bread. It was a December Friday in 1999, and we were coasting away from the Darling Downs on dusk to arrive in our new city after dinner time. Coming through Gatton and Ipswich, the air thickened and grew hotter.

I was ten, and sad about leaving. On our last night in Toowoomba surrounded by red earth and wattles, I made everyone write what they would miss about the house. Mum said the garden. Dad said the doors we had from the burnt down theatre in town. Tom said the arrows of light that came through the fire smoke when we had barbeques downstairs. I said westerly winds and jumpers.

We moved into a place in Ashgrove for a few months, house sitting for friends who had a kelpie-cross called Rex. Our temporary home backed onto a park with a creek and a huge oval. Rex stank, but I walked him along the creek and could not believe the green. Green vines choking a bank covered in green grass. At night I listened to flying foxes scratch about in the Moreton Bay Figs.

I turned eleven, and we bought a house in Bardon that Mum and Dad called ‘Spanish Missionary.’ It was blinding white under the blue sky, and it was my home for eleven years. We had a pool that Tom and I dove into after we walked home from Rainworth Primary. We ate mangoes on the side, and watched for the crazy neighbour who never changed out of her pyjamas. I would fall asleep on nights at Stokes St looking at the silhouette of a palm tree outside my window shift and dance on wallpaper. Tom was in the next room, and I opened the door that separated us so I wasn’t alone.

At school Alana asked me if we had to drive to our mailbox in Toowoomba. I said no, it wasn’t like that. The kids wore fancy runners and their mum’s picked them up in city four wheel drives. People cocked their collars and wore Canterbury shorts. At Toowoomba East, people made their own uniforms from tartan bought at the drapery in town.

On the weekends I walked to my new friend Catriona’s house. Catriona and I would sweat our way up the hill to the corner shop and buy icypoles from the Vietnamese man. Next to the chips and newspapers we saw Dolly, and after much convincing of parents Catriona and I decided we would read it every month. When the issue came out with SEX in huge orange letters across the cover, it was confiscated until after a phone call between mothers. Finally, we were allowed to read it. The section was sealed and it was fantastic.

Mum would ring and say it was time to come home for dinner. I’d walk down the hill, over the drain with all the mozzies, up Couldrey Street, and past the lady with all the ferns. Summer showers came through and soaked my shoes. I could smell the heat rising from the bitumen, and storm birds called, echoing loudly from the umbrella trees.