THE FIRST TIME I fly to Melbourne to see my father alone I am four years old, and I’m so little that Qantas won’t take me unaccompanied. My father pays an air hostess to sit beside me the entire flight down.
For the rest of my life growing up between two cities, the starting point would be Sydney, but the first time it’s Canberra. My mother and I are on holiday with friends in Jindabyne for the Easter long weekend. Canberra is the closest airport. On the drive there, my mother is so petrified about what she is about to do that she has to pull over on the side of the highway and vomit in the dry, yellow grass. At Canberra Airport, we do the thing we will learn to do in the years to come. The rest of the passengers board the plane – the adults, and other children accompanied by parents. I wait until everyone is in, comfortably seated, reading their magazines. Then the designated air hostess approaches and takes me by the hand. I walk down the gangway and turn to look back at my mother, who stands at the soon-to-close door, smiling and waving at me, always smiling until I’ve stopped looking.
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