Imagining: Barbara slides open the large, square window and the kitchen becomes a balcony. Leaning over the balustrade, surrounded by gumtrees, Barbara watches the kids wallowing in the mud in the garden below. The open window entices a warm summer breeze, which picks up the sweet scent of bubbling passata, made with home-grown herbs and fresh tomatoes, and carries it through the house. In the study up the stairs, Lenny, who is trying to focus on work, feels his tummy rumble in praise of the aroma.
As she prepares dough for tonight’s pasta, the deep green terrazzo bench top is covered in a thin veil of ﬂour. The rhythmic motion of her kneading is a sort of meditation, entrancing her deeper with each fold and press. But before long she’s startled back to earth by three hungry humans pounding up – and down – the stairs, converging on the kitchen. ‘Thank god Kate and Matt had the sense to wash off in the laundry before traipsing mud pie all through the house’, Barbara thinks to herself, ‘as it won’t be long before the guests arrive’.
Barbara whizzes some plump tomatoes and herbs in the food processor while the kids play in the lounge. An oversized Welsh dresser separates the lounge and the kitchen, tidily housing all of the kitchen appliances, crockery and even a few bottles of wine. It gives the kids a sense of privacy while also keeping them close-by. Barbara sneaks a peek as she prepares; Matt is constructing a timber block megalopolis while Kate draws her latest masterpiece.
Downstairs Lenny sets up a trestle table in the undercroft of the house. It’s cooler down there, the blockwork wall, shaded by the house, maintains a steady temperature – even in December’s heat. And, since we’re being practical, it’s spacious enough for all the friends and family who will soon join them.
It’s early evening as the guests arrive. They bring chairs and eskies full of cheese and drinks. As the sun sets and the moon cuts a path across the sky, they eat great food, drink fabulous wine, talk and laugh.
The tribe of kids entertain and exhaust themselves late into the evening. With the adults out of the way, the house becomes their treehouse, with peepholes in unexpected places, hidey-holes and stairs which casually spiral through the centre of the home.
A friend ducks into the powder room, surprised by what they ﬁnd – a collection of oddities, more like a display in an antiques store than a bathroom. There’s an enamel sink, the kind you might expect to ﬁnd in an old farmhouse, a small antique mirror hangs on one side of the sink, a light dangles on the other.
It’s late now. The moon hangs low in the purple-blue sky. The family, with full stomachs and tired cheeks, wave farewell to the last set of headlights as they reverse out of the drive and fade into the darkness. They retreat inside; the lights of the house ﬂicking out one by one.
As they lay in bed, a forgotten cool breeze delivers a blend of eucalyptus and earth’s perfume, while the pitter-patter of rain on corrugated iron lulls them off to sleep, breaking a long, dry stretch. It’s a soft, melodic kind of sound, like crickets playing percussion; a backing track to the song of the night owls and the frogs. While the sound of a dripping tap is enough to send a sane man mad, the sound of many drips, in chorus, has the opposite effect. And they sleep.