One of life’s unexplained mysteries is that everyone knows someone from Toowoomba.
I was once in Sydney, stepped out of a cab, heard someone say something about Toowoomba on the footpath, then walked inside my hotel and the people checking in ahead of me were from Toowoomba. I had just come from Toowoomba that day. It was a Toowoomba twilight zone triangle. If you’re reading this, then you know me (Sarah), and Toowoomba is where I was born and bred and where my family still live.
There seem to be two main groups of people from Toowoomba. Those who leave, and those who stay. From a young age, I kept journals detailing my plot to leave, and at 17, a month after finishing high school, I boarded a plane to New York. That whole experience is a book in itself, but an amazing byproduct of my time away was what it did for the relationship between my hometown and me.
In my year abroad, I always got asked the same two questions:
“Your parents let you come over here all by yourself?!” (Yep, it was largely my mum’s idea.)
“You’re from where?”
“Is that between One-woomba and Three-woomba?” (Not. Joking. I’m thinking of making a One-woomba, Two-woomba, Three-woomba T-shirt and selling it to tourists at the Carnival of Flowers one year. Consider it patented.)
I had to explain Toowoomba so many times in so many ways, that it took on mythical qualities in my year abroad. People seemed genuinely wowed by my tales of shops shutting at 5pm, my grandmother knowing a schoolboy Geoffrey Rush, and sheep delivering our mail. Ok I may have made that last one up…
I came home and saw the place through totally fresh eyes. I could appreciate it. I could write about it and express it as something other than “Ugh, this place is so boring”. Now I go back and it feels like the town that time forgot, and I mean that in the loveliest way possible. As my best friend (who also left) said on his recent trip home “Oh Toowoomba, never change! Oh…you haven’t. Not since 1973!”
When you grow up there but move away, pangs of Toowoomba nostalgia hit every 6 months or so, and can resemble a long lost love, urging your heart to go back and give it another go. So you find some cheap flights, or maybe take a road trip and drive up there, past the country properties owned by the families of kids you went to school with, and your parents warn you to watch out for the crazy country traffic, and there is no Sunday trading, and not all cafes yet have soy milk to cater for the weirdo you’ve become, and you remember how this place made you, but you also remember why you left.
And leave you will, but only because you know you’ll be back again in 6 months, and you have a tin full of your grandma’s Anzac biscuits to take on the plane.
Love Sarah xo
PS – a GREAT ode to Toowoomba here from another hometown friend.
PPS – a Toowoomba song.