Back in 1987 I was looking at buying my first home with my then partner. We had different ideas of what we wanted as he wanted something we could renovate and extend which, basically, translated to a weatherboard construction that needed work. A fix-a-upper. I on the other hand had grown up in a fibro home and had my sights set on brick and tile that was warmer in winter and cooler in summer, generally tidy, had a veranda and a place to park the car undercover.
High hopes for a first home buyer, at least I was told, but I was prepared to take on some work and was actually , foolishly, looking forward to adding touches that would make it my own. Painting the inside for example. However, that wasn’t meant to be as it worked out. My wage was the only constant, reliable source of income as he was “starting off” his own trade business and the bank didn’t want to take the risk on us so I had to lower my sights and optimistically aimed at my first home not being my last home.
We did find a weatherboard house, a small step above fibro construction in my books, that was centrally located with large rooms, high ceilings and ornate cornice. The house and land were being sold by a deceased estate, which meant they wanted to sell, and fast. It was okay in my books but it needed a lot of work. I was impressed with the cornice but I wasn’t over the line on it so far as thinking this is my new home. Honestly, I didn’t really like it. There, I said it. I didn’t like it but it was within the price range the bank had set for us. I remember thinking I was being too fussy and that baby steps were needed to propel us into the future but the place didn’t call to me.
Then I walked around the backyard. In the very back corner of the yard was a gnarled tree that clinched the deal for me.
As a kid, I don’t know how many apple seeds I planted in the lawn around the old fibro building I called home in the hope of growing a tree that bore my favourite fruit. None of them ever shot but I kept planting them, just in case one did.
In the back yard of this unimpressive building I was being pushed to sign my wages over to for the next 30 years was an apple tree in full flower. I fell in love with that tree even if it needed more work than the house did. It was old then, it’s older now and the fruit has a lot to be desired but it is still there and each year when it flowers it reminds me of the hope the future.
I did get to paint the inside rooms, by myself, but only one room and the hallway still have the ornate cornice. Even the double hung windows that were a signature of the houses post war construction were changed to tasteless, uninspiring aluminium sliding ones. This was a “renovation” I didn’t approve of but was overruled. I can’t say there were many of these because there was never any money to do anything as I remained the primary wage earner of the family and the business remained a front for my partners unwillingness to work.
Although my wages remained the only source of income into the house, I paid it off in less than 20 years. Then I had to buy it again so my children could kept their familiar home when everything else fell apart as their father divorced me.
I still don’t really like the house, it still needs a lot of work. It doesn’t have a veranda and the car sits in the driveway with no cover but one important thing that hasn’t changed is that the apple tree flowers every spring and it’s blossoms are beautiful.