Recently, there has been a lot of reminiscing: seemingly endless discussions about who lived where, who they married, exactly when things happened and so on.It’s good to remember, isn’t it? It roots us in our past, gives us our place in history, and strengthens links with those who are no longer with us.
A discussion about the future of my late mother-in-law’s house has made me think harder about this.
That house will always be Mum and Dad’s; they designed and built it, they chose the site, the furnishings and the plants for the garden. They lived there for 22 years, only a few hundred yards from their family home of 29 years, and only half a mile from where Dad grew up, and where his uncles and aunts all lived. Their family has been traced at least back to the year 1800 in this parish. That is a lot of history.
I don’t have quite the same continuity in my life. My parents moved away from their families when they married, we moved once when I was a child, and they moved again after I left home. We can trace them back just as far, but we’ve moved on.
I moved here when I married, 28 years ago today. And if I’m honest, I’d be happy to move again.
I imagine that most houses, when their owners die, are sold, usually to strangers who see it as a development opportunity. Those who are sentimentally attached to the place may be sad to see it go; distressed by the disposal of the contents; upset by the changes that are inevitable – but they have to let go.
But this house will not be sold. It remains in the family, and the new owners will find it difficult to decide what to change and what to keep. The décor is dated and in some places a bit shabby; the kitchen and bathrooms are outmoded; electrics and lighting need attention. But it is Mum and Dad’s house and we want to remember them as they were. We want to keep things the same, for ever and ever, amen…
But what about closure? What about drawing a line under the sad events leading up to the death of a loved one? What about moving on and living for today instead of dwelling on the past and clinging to memories?
Increasingly with all that has happened over the past few months, I feel the need for a change of scenery; a breath of fresh air; a new approach. It is possible that a complete change, a fresh start, would be the answer to my unspoken questions.
All this past history drags me back in time. All those old memories weigh me down (and most of them aren’t even my memories!) How will it be possible to move forward. Memory Lane is a nice place to visit occasionally, but do we really want to live here?