Family compound

The gate (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

I’ve written a little about my intergenerational household on this blog before, most specifically here (a post from 2008).

My mum’s lived with me since 2005, and has been with us ever since we moved into the house (S. and my first home that wasn’t a rental) and had kids. That’s about seven years.

Last year, my brother moved into the same suburb, but he and his wife didn’t just move into the neighbourhood or even across the road. They moved in BEHIND us; they’re over the back fence. A fence that has a gate cut into it, which is frequently open.

They were looking for a place for a while and had started checking out some places nearby. When we heard that the place behind us was going up for sale, we couldn’t believe the coincidence.

Still, in amongst the machinations about early offers and building inspections and pretending to the vendors that we were interested but not that interested, we tried to retain a sense of perspective about it all. If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. We mustn’t get too upset about it.

The excitement in the lead-up to their landing the house at auction (oh, the suspense, the drama) was still delightfully high (we weren’t very good at keeping that sense of perspective, it seems).

They got the house.

It has been almost a year now that they’ve been there, and it feels like a thing that was always meant to be. Even before they moved in, S. had cut that gate into the fence. The first suggestion by my over-enthusiastic brother and spouse was to remove the back fence entirely; they had gotten all Age of Aquarius and were talking about communal chicken-coops, joint fishponds, and ribbons of aquaponic vege-gardens gracing both blocks. Being all kinds of socially cautious, I suggested paring back the bromance and trialling things with just a gate first – one that could be shut against wandering children (ours and possibly theirs in the future). It turned out to be a very sound idea not to remove the fence, mostly because of the kids (who are at times deviously or charmingly unaware of boundaries in any sense).

Growing up with a clan that often fizzed with gossip, competitive sledging, and ostentation, that adage about familiarity breeding contempt floats always accessibly in my mind. My clan has an uncle. Well, it has many, many uncles, but there was one in particular who talked often about establishing a family compound with his siblings so that all the uncles and aunts could be neighbours and drop in on each other for visits and meals and rainbows. It was presumed that the horde of cousins would grow up as excellent friends and become quite the stalwart tribe. It never happened, of course. I remember that I grew up with his declarations that this family nirvana would be in the offing as soon as they made that million. Uh-huh. The idea was a complete nightmare to me, and I was relieved that it’d could never happen because he had no support from anyone else for his idea. The clan compound, Malaysian (or Chinese) style, was an idea no-one in Australia wanted to propagate.

Until my immediate family moved to Melbourne. And my mum came to live with us, and my brother and his wife bought the house behind. Luckily, we can’t be too extreme. My sister (only other sibling) is a die-hard St Kilda dweller and would rather barrack for Collingwood than move to the stagnant burbs.

Elm tree (Photo by E.) - The 50+ year old elm tree that straddles our two blocks and around which the fence is built. Bonding over this tree is part of the reason why the vendors were very happy with the buyers.
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3 thoughts on “Family compound

  1. fiajawhiteman 05/06/2012 / 7:11 pm

    what a beautiful tree! I’ve lived on my street for long enough to know most of the neighbours and wish we didn’t have these ugly hardie fences…could look over into their backyard or visit them without having to go out the front door. What was it that Pete Seeger sang about little boxes….

    • Tseen Khoo 06/06/2012 / 8:20 pm

      The tree adds so much to our daily appreciation of the place – you can see it on Google Earth pics! 🙂

      • fiajawhiteman 11/06/2012 / 11:35 pm

        Wow. WordPress is so cool since I last blogged…you can see if the blogger responded without having to go through many many blog posts.

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