What a crazy place.
Good crazy, for sure. Nonetheless...craaazy.
I pulled up about ten minutes early, deciding to leave the bottle of Veuve in the car for now, just in case. Walking up the street, cars jammed along both sides so only one car can pass at a time, typical Sydney, I hear someone call out and turn to see my friends pull up outside their hopefully soon-to-be sold house. Semi, actually. 3-bed, 1-bath, no parking. But Randwick North is a prime neighbourhood, and by the number of people milling about, there's plenty of interest. They're going to have a cuppa at their neighbours and then come in for the auction. I tell them I'll see them in there.
I spend a moment in each room as I walk through the house, taking it all in for what could be one of the last times. Although they've renovated a couple of years ago, it's the original house I see now, hearing those chubby little feet padding up the hallway, recalling how our babies napped together in the front room. I take a deep sniff in the kid's room, searching for the damp smell she so often complained about, and almost tear up at the sight of the train tracks, so beautifully staged now that were mostly held in the drooly fist of one of our children once upon a time.
I greet their agent - also our agent - with genuine warmth, then find some space up the back of the garden. For now, I sit on the exterior retaining wall, low to the ground. My heart is beating a slow, steady pace, but I can definitely feel it. I see about five people holding paddles, could be more. One guy has a folder alongside it, with the words, 'home loan stuff' scrawled on the front. How well I remember turning up week after week at auctions for homes we couldn't afford, just in case there was no-one there with more money than us...always on a prayer. I want to talk to them, to let them know that we too went through so many days of hoping, trying, turning up knowing it likely wouldn't happen, but having already emotionally moved in. I remember the conversations, the scratching around for any ability to go that bit higher, to get into the market that remains out of reach for so many. Just chasing the Australian dream of owning a home.
When the oh-so slick gentleman in the suit arrives, I stand and balance on my now shaky feet, looking for my friends. People are still coming in, some I'd noticed looking very nervous earlier, and others clearly just here for a peek at the action. At the last minute, in walk my friends. We stand together in silence, I notice her hands shaking. I want to reach out and squeeze her, but all eyes are on the prize now. We cannot be anything but faces in the crowd.
As the auctioneer talks through the fine print, I drift into the backyards of the houses where we've heard this before. Just a skip into the city, minutes from Centennial Park...
I shake my head, returning to this backyard, coming back to this moment. He calls for a starting bid. With only a few moments of silence, it is made. Things move pretty quickly from here. The price soon moves above reserve, as my friend turns and whispers, "Do they realise there's no parking?"
It is all I can do to stop myself from cheering the bidders on. My friends are still, silent, processing what is happening, the implications for their family, their lives. As the hammer comes down, polite applause recognises the moment, not matching at all the feelings I have ready to burst out in glorious celebration. We smile, still looking around, no hugging yet. The space begins to clear. My friends look shell-shocked. Once I've snuck the bubbly into their fridge, we loiter out front and debrief a little, and then I leave them to their business. Selling their home. (Semi, actually.)