I met the buyers today. In two weeks (gods and solicitors permitting) they will live in my dad’s house.
The house will open to welcome them, their story will, for a time, become its story.
Life goes on.
I wanted to tell them the stories I remember, I wanted to show them everything that has happened here, to weave it for them, a glorious tapestry of life shared over forty years.
Stories vanish if they are not told, memories wither if we don’t walk them.
This is what I remember.
I remember visiting for the first time, and the Polls, who sold us the house in 1982, giving us tea. I remember the brick-cladding in the front room on either side of the fireplace and thinking how amazing it was to have a downstairs loo.
I remember the livid green and yellow flowers (bigger than my head) on my bedroom wall.
I remember riding our bikes around the cul-de-sac and playing with Nick, Joanna, Christopher, Richard and Paul in our back garden.
I remember creating adventures for the Star Wars and Action Force figures up beneath the cypress trees.
I remember the laburnam flowering; rich, golden, pendant bunches of blooms, and imagining they would taste like honeyed grapes (my mother warning me they were poisonous increased the fascination).
I remember my grandad digging in the garden in his shirt-sleeves.
I remember barbecues under the pergola and my dad’s potent home brewed cider which sent us all squiffy and led to an afternoon of laughter.
I remember the party I had when I was sixteen where one guest stole a bottle of sherry and another dropped brie in the pond, and that everyone left early and I felt awkward and out of step. I would find my people later.
I remember Meike from Germany who came to visit her Nana at number 8. We went to the beach together one afternoon and I met my first boyfriend (I was thirteen, it lasted a month). Later I heard he was in prison.
I remember Mrs Walters from number 14. She was very old and whiskery and often cross. She had lived in her house since it was built in 1933. I remember her telling me about the time during World War 2 when a Messerschmidt flew over and strafed the houses, how it hit our house, leaving bullet marks above the landing window. The bullets burst the water tank and the water had flooded down the stairs. The marks used to be clear, but time has blurred them.
I remember the plum tree at the end of the garden, and the joy of picking its sweet purple fruits, or rescuing windfalls before the wasps found them.
I remember dressing up with my school friend Jonathan, in wigs and heels and seventies jumpsuits, garlanded with beads. Later he becomes a drag queen and I remembered how glamourous we were.
I remember cycling to school each day, and puffing back up the hill on the homeward journey, and the day in the sixth form I was setting off and realised I was still wearing my slippers.
I remember the day, aged twenty, I married the boys’ dad. We had a marquee in the back garden, garlanded with ivy, and I wore a crown of flowers in my hair.
I remember sitting in the paddling pool eight months pregnant in August 1998 and trying to cool off, beached whale woman.
I remember Jonathan, setting off down the garden in his dungarees and red wellies, and vanishing for ages to talk to the bugs and plants, aged eighteen months.
I remember sitting on the swing seat with Mum on her fiftieth birthday and how happy she was.
I remember finding her on her knees scrubbing the paths clean of moss, and meticulous organisation in the tool shed and greenhouse, everything in its place.
I remember the first year I decided to grow veg and planted fifty brussel sprout seeds which all came up, I created a brussel sprout forest in the veg patch!
I remember sacred circles around the fire in the part of the garden that no-one else can see, gathering to share ritual, conversation, mead, magic.
I remember sitting on the bench with Mum in her final autumn. How she always felt the cold and we wrapped up in coats and blankets so that she looked like a mini-Michelin man. How the sun bathed us with fire and she was enraptured (all over again) by the “golden afternoon”, the garden her sanctuary and always happy place.
I remember taking coffee up to the patio in the middle garden each day in lockdown, sitting with Simon in the warmth of March, April and May and staring at the deep, blue of a trail-free sky.
I remember the one, brief moment when I dared to stand naked under a June full moon.
I remember the stories…the grass snake in the pond, the poorly cat who took refuge in the greenhouse, the kitten attempting to hop across lily pads, Midge chasing the fox up the garden.
Memory is a wonky mirror. When we return to the places we have known they are changed, as are we.
Yet for all that the stories abide, the tears of early heartbreaks, the magic of shared celebrations.
The house was our home, “home”because of those who shared it. Home travels with us as we wander onwards.
In quiet moments I can hear the whisper of new stories, waiting in the wings, potent with possibility and promise.