By Candice Marcus
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts,” Oliver Wendell Holmes.
The sound was what struck me most. I wasn’t expecting to have my memory jolted so beautifully in this way. I had forgotten how intensely loud the birds sing in the expanse of the tall trees that surrounded my high school and the winding road to my old estate. I stood there listening to the chorus of the forest, with tears in my eyes as my memory instinctively darted back to the pages of my childhood. The Central Coast of New South Wales is known for its natural beauty, but somehow I had forgotten just how incredible some of it was.
As I made the trip one and a half hours north of Sydney for my high school reunion I was apprehensive, excited and brimming with sentimentality. For all my travels, for the many houses I’ve called home and the vast array of places I have been privileged to visit and live in – I had nearly forgotten the place that meant the most to me. Terrigal is where I grew up. It’s a gorgeous little beachside town nestled between Avoca Beach and Forresters Beach, and acts as a magnet to holiday makers and locals alike. Its name is said to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of little birds’. As a child I never really appreciated the natural beauty that I saw every day. Yet on my very first visit back to the Central Coast (a full decade after I had left) I was overwhelmed by it.
My heart is often divided between the many facets of my life but I had just learnt to move on and never look back. Don’t get me wrong, my new home in Adelaide means the world to me, too. South Australia is full of postcard beaches, gorgeous wine regions and quaint historical charm – not to mention fabulous friends. I’ll always have a soft spot for the bustling cities of Melbourne and Sydney where my parents first made a home for me when we migrated to Australia. And, of course, England will always have a very special meaning for me – being my birthplace and home to all my extended family. But I wasn’t quite prepared for how moving it would be to set my eyes on gorgeous little Terrigal Beach. I was flooded with emotion. Familiarity, happiness and vivid memories danced around my mind. As I reminisced I could see my Dad helping me fly my kite, my Mum taking pictures as I ran along the beach in my nippers swimming costume and later my newfound sense of independence wandering down the promenade of shops and cafes with my teenage friends.
How easy it is to lose sight of those precious parts of our past. Yes, it sounds very much like self-indulgent sentimental whimsy, but to me that’s the point. I’d never let myself journey back into my childhood in this way, and visiting my old home was the catalyst to rekindle my connection with my past. It wasn’t until I did this that I realised how important it was to me. I made the trip alone, and I allowed myself to experience the emotions I had held at bay for so long. Not everything amounts to a happy memory, but it all shapes the person I am today. It felt like a lifetime ago, and in many ways it was confronting to make such an emotionally taxing journey. But it reminded me to look over my shoulder every once in a while and appreciate where I’ve come from and how the little things have made a big difference in my life.
The physical act of visiting a place with special meaning can be extremely powerful, especially when distance and time has eroded that connection. It can be rediscovered in a very special way. As I stood at the bottom of the iconic Skillion (a beautiful cliff-like rock formation in Terrigal Haven that looks rather like a huge petrified wave) I realised how my child’s mind had exaggerated its already impressive size – everything was slightly smaller than I remembered. After successfully conquering the steep climb to the top, I walked over to the edge and allowed my gaze to slowly and ceremoniously wander across the scene to take in the incredible, breathtakingly beautiful view. To my amazement I was greeted with the same awe-inspiring feeling I had as a child, and I couldn’t help but blink away the water in my eyes and break into a huge smile.