We first lived in Healesville – well outside Healesville. It was a “five mile” drive. Apart from our grandparents’ guesthouse, and some holiday flats our parents owned, there were no other houses or people around. Occasionally there were other children at the holiday flats, but I can remember only one. Most of the time there were just the four of us. We were one another’s play mates. We were one another’s only friends. We did sometimes visit cousins on a farm in the region, or they visited the guesthouse up the hill. But we only had our siblings for company most of the time. We had lots of land to run around and play. As we were young, I am not sure that we even missed having other children around. But this is from the perspective of number three in the family. My two older siblings were at school, so perhaps they did have other playmates and friends.
We left Healesville when I was five. Our first home in Melbourne was a four-room house. This comprised two bedrooms, a lounge room, and the kitchen. There was a passage down the centre, the bedrooms were on one side, the lounge room and kitchen on the other. Although that was not how the house was used – Mum and Dad used the lounge room as their bedroom. Otherwise we would not fit. The kitchen was our kitchen, lounge, even bathroom of a sort. This was an old metal baby’s bath, with water heated on the wood stove – girls first, boys next, and after we were in bed, Mum and Dad. This house was in the middle of a huge expanse of uncleared land – mostly shrub on sandy soil. The driveway to the house was quite long. Could it have been around 500 metres, or possibly even longer? No other houses within sight meant again that there was just the four of us as playmates. Although by this time we were all at school, so did have other socialisation opportunities. Given the size and location of the house, sleep overs and other visits by friends from school just did not happen. So again, our only playmates were the four of us. But we had plenty of land to run around.
I was eight when we moved Mt Waverley. It was a newish area with only a few houses. I think ours as the third or fourth in the street. But this time there were other children around. There was bushland over the road. So with our extended group of playmates, lots of places to run and play.
Of course over the years, more and more houses were built, we all grew up, had our own friends, lived our own lives. But we grew up in a family of six, always with lots of open space around us!