I was born in a country town on the border of South Australia and Victoria. A town that was big by country standards, but small enough that the whole world felt like it was on our doorstep. Behind our house were big open fields where our dog used to run and chase rabbits. Our neighbours were our best friends – the adults would play cards and drink wine while Becky (their daughter) and I would sit up in bed in our pyjamas, telling each other stories.
When I was three we moved to Adelaide. It was only a four hour drive, but a whole other world away. I made new friends at kindergarten and I had a whole new backyard to go exploring in, but still I was a pretty introverted kid. I had lost my best friend and everything seemed enormous. But I had Ernie.
Ernie was a stuffed toy version of Ernie from Sesame Street – complete with stripy jumper – and he came everywhere with me. He shared my love of stories and bath times with rubber ducks and predicted my current love for woollen jumpers way before I caught on.
But one day, without talking to me about it or leaving me a note, Ernie disappeared. I was devastated. I cried so much that my parents went out and bought me a brand new Ernie. This was not a house full of toys - most of our games and puzzles were borrowed from the local toy library - so to buy a new toy outside of a birthday or Christmas was a big deal.
Two days later, Ernie reappeared. My parents were furious and cried foul. I professed my innocence but Ernie, New Ernie and I were all tainted from the experience. It did not take long until New Ernie was cast aside; there was just too much history between Ernie and I.
Later, Ernie confided to me that he too had been struggling to adjust to the big city and had tried to make his way home again. He spent three days trying to find a bus or train or someone he could hitch a ride with back to the town with the beautiful blue lake. But he had underestimated how far away it is and how difficult it can be to hitchhike when you are small and lack opposable thumbs.
After a few days of roaming the suburban streets of Adelaide, he gave up and made his way back home. When I found him he was caught in the jasmine vine. He had tried to jump the fence at night to sneak back inside without anyone noticing, but his jumper had snagged on his way down. He said I couldn’t say anything to my parents because we would both get into even more trouble, but I was quietly proud of his adventurous spirit.
He used to tell me his tales from the road late at night when it was just two of us, sitting up in bed, telling each other stories.
Kylie Maslen is a writer and events producer based in Melbourne. She writes about what she's been reading and what she's been eating at book-plate.com. Sheappeared at the 2014 Emerging Writers' Festival, has been published by Writers' Bloc and previously wrote for Collect. In October she appeared (and made sandwiches at) at the National Young Writers' Festival. Say hello on Twitter: @hellobookplate.