It’s the end of December and we’re driving home from the northern beaches. We’ve been to Palm Beach, Mum wanted to see where they film Home & Away. My older brother drives in front of us, along the highway, it’s well into the evening now and we’re all sun-tired and weary. Mum sees an opening in the next lane and swerves over, overtaking my brother and laughing as she does it.
As we get closer to home we drive past a motel on the side of the highway. Out the front a neon sign reads ‘Pets welcome’. This stays with me the rest of the drive. A motel that allows pets; a refuge on the edge of town for the people leaving their lives behind.
Driving through our old suburb we spot a row of houses that have a pathetic offering of Christmas lights sprawled across guttering and letterboxes.
‘Only bogans have Christmas lights,’ my sister says, and seconds later, ‘Mum, can we get Christmas lights for our house?’
Mum speeds up to make it through an orange light. ‘Highway to Hell’ comes on the radio. Mum reaches over, turns it up really loud and starts singing. My little brother pulls a face and covers his ears.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost track of my older brother and his girlfriend. It could’ve been anywhere between the motel and the Christmas lights. His sandy towels are in our car so Mum decides to stop by his house on the way home. Mum drives up the kerb and parks the car. She gets out, stretches her legs and lights a cigarette. We wait for ten minutes, and after calling my brother with no answer, we drive home. It is rare that we leave the house in the morning as a family and return that night still talking to each other