When I finally cleared immigration at Melbourne airport, I was so delighted to see Vaughn again, I practically threw myself at him. We took a very long detour to our house, because we kept looking at each other instead of at the road.
We first went to our new home. Vaughn was nervous because I had given him only one criterion when it came to choice: it must ‘feel right’.
We had looked at numerous houses on the internet before his departure, but when he got to Melbourne and saw the reality, he appreciated the benefits of wide-angled lens photography. So under the same conditions, I had viewed the house he’d chosen and was expecting it to be smaller than the pictures showed.
But I was slightly awed, as the house was huge. The ever-optimistic Vaughn had bought a big house in anticipation of many visitors and family immigrants following in our footsteps.
We went in through the garage where I saw a brand new Hyundai Getz in a pretty shade of lavender. Vaughn had already started his new job, so couldn’t take any leave. There was big shopping to be done. His words were ‘Here’s your car. Get yourself a map book.’
We had a new bed, borrowed bed linen, two dinner plates, two cereal bowls and two sets of cutlery from his mother. We had two coffee mugs and a bar fridge, in which Vaughn had put some milk. That was it.
After looking over our empty new house, we went to Vaughn’s parents, where his mother had cooked him an enormous T-bone steak for his last supper before handing him back to me. I think my own mother used to equate food to love. The greater her effort, the more love she was showing, and the more you ate, the better you returned her love. It was amazing that we weren’t all very fat, as Mum’s roasts were legendary.
I slept soundly in my new home, exhausted from the travel and the emotional depths and highs.
Vaughn’s twin sister Cheryll took a few days leave to help me orientate myself. I found the local shops and bought the essential map book. We then organised a washing machine, a fridge and a microwave, followed shortly after by a television. Vaughn was not able to plumb the washing machine in straight away because all his tools were in the container, which would take a further six weeks to arrive. Cheryll lent us two bar stools, and we managed quite well for a while with only these minimal possessions.
The appliance I missed most was the computer, my life-line to the rest of the world, so I was grateful to be able to seize Vaughn’s laptop each evening to email the children in South Africa. I was relieved to hear Nikki had recovered and was back at work, and everyone seemed to be getting on with their lives.
However, I discovered later, that we left an aching void they all struggled to fill. There were constant reminders that life would never be the same again. No more Saturday afternoon wine together, or Sunday barbecues. One less set of baby-sitters. No mum to run to for a hug when things weren’t going well.
And little Megan. Who knew what she was feeling? It would be hard for most ten year olds to verbalise their emotions, and I’m sure she went through the same grieving process as the adults, but without the understanding. I felt I had let her down in the worst possible way and I carry that guilt and sadness to this day.
But at that moment, for me, the adventure had started. At first it was like being on holiday, but I did feel deep stabs of envy when I saw grannies having coffees with their sons, daughters and grandchildren.
For the first week or so I focussed on finding my way around, and trying to change our house from a campsite to a home.
Driving in Melbourne was not as scary as I’d anticipated, because the speed limit was slower, which gave me chance to check the map book as I went.
But by the middle of the second week, that holiday feeling had waned and I found it increasingly difficult to hang on to a cheerful face.