Memory Lane

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?


Going Home

We took her home to the Haven where she was born and spent her idyllic childhood.

All her life she loved to revisit the north coast cove with its sandy beach and high cliffs.  As a child she swam there in the summer after school.  The boys changed on one side of the beach and the girls on the other, and afterwards they left their costumes and towels on the rocks where they would dry in the sun, ready for the children to return the next day.  It was more than 70 years ago.

There was tension and anxiety as we pulled into the car park at teatime on that unseasonably warm April afternoon.  Holidaymakers swam and played and barbequed, oblivious to our disquiet.

Her son and daughter-in-law, daughter and son-in-law, two granddaughters and a cousin/friend – the five of us discussed the weather, the view, the parking charges, avoiding each others’ eyes, shuffling our feet, feeling chilly despite the warm sunshine.

Slowly we mounted the cliff path.  We stopped to admire the view and take photos of the light glinting on the water; we mocked the surfers with their wetsuits, calling them soft although none of us would have ventured into the water at this time of year.

Rounding the headland known as Highcliff, the wind blowing gently at our backs, we decided that this was the place.  Taking the container from it’s carrier bag, her daughter opened it and poured the contents out, spilling some on the cliff edge and letting the breeze take the rest out to the bay where the sea twinkled in sympathy.

Not wanting to leave, we sat on a bench and talked about nothing much.  The granddaughters paddled bravely.  We agreed to come back soon, and resolved to swim in the sea this very summer, in her memory.

Later, at a mediocre pub on the way home, we ate, talked and drank too much, then returned home to try and get back to normal; a new and strange normality without our Grandma, Mum, Winifred…

Glasses; Money; Phone

A couple of days ago I was reading yet more blogs about minimalist lifestyles, and came across  one called “Be More With Less (life on purpose)”.  One post in particular caught my eye – What’s in your purse.  (It’s an American blog, can you tell?)  Love the picture, by the way – wish I could find a handbag that colour!

Anyway it reminded me of a trick my daughters (now 20 and 23) have adopted to remind themselves of the essentials when they leave the house.  They chant “glasses, money, phone”.  These being the essential, irreplaceable things that they will always need.  Sometimes they will add other items, such as tickets (if travelling or going to  the theatre etc), or keys (as they have become more independent).  But it always starts “glasses, money, phone”.

If you believe that parents can learn from their children, here is the proof, as we have adopted their mantra, and found it helpful.  It also helps to remind ourselves that only a fraction of what we carry in our “purse” is really necessary, and when I have an hour or two to spare I intend to go through the contents of mine and reduce them drastically.

Of course, intentions are not deeds (who said that?  Maybe I made it up).  Here’s a better quotation: “The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.” (Roger Nash Baldwin, pacifist and communist, and one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union)

>Grown up kids

>4kool is home again! Back from 8 months in Australia, working and sightseeing.

It’s lovely to see her again. She has met so many people and had so many experiences, she hasn’t stopped talking about it for two days. And she used to be so quiet!

On the other hand, she hasn’t changed much. Already she has taken control of the spare room with The Sims on the computer and the TV to watch Friends and all her favourite programmes. Long sessions on Facebook, MSN and on the phone to all her friends. Not much to do because said friends are all either working, taking exams, still away at uni. Clothes and “stuff” all over the bedroom floor which has been so tidy for the last 8 months.

Before she arrived home, we spent last weekend with 3kool, who is working and living in her own tiny flat 250 miles from our home. She proudly cooked meals for us and entertained us with visits to local attractions and to the cinema (Star Trek!) Very grown up, and not just playing at it either.