My mum’s house has sold. This is a very good thing. The money will go towards the exhorbitant fees we pay for her new life of luxury with the crazy people. We will no longer be responsible for the upkeep of the house, nor worry about its security, nor will I have to go back to a village that I couldn’t wait to escape from.
But not wishing to sound too syrupy, we’re also selling her home, and de facto mine too.
When I went back last time, I told myself I was there to help Miles clear the house. But really I was there to reminisce. The loft was full of our stuff: school diaries; Blue Peter Annuals; second-tier toys that I left behind when I moved out. And the Liverpool FC club poster with Kenny Dalgleish’s face cut out because I put it in my purse and told people it was a photo of my boyfriend. But there was also my parents old stuff, left in musty trunks and stuffed into the carrier bags of stores that closed 40 years ago. Some of it junk, some of it obviously kept for sentimental reasons. Eight yellowing copies of the Yorkshire Post with their wedding photo on the front page. A silk christening gown with matching booties and a bonnet – creepy and cute in equal measure. All of it stored there I suppose because they had no other place for it but couldn’t bring themselves to throw it away.
That was the fun trip.
I don’t leave for another couple of weeks, but I feel like I’m already there, roaming around every inch of the house, opening cupboards, drawers and wardrobes like some benign poltergeist. I get flooded by mundane memories while Madonna’s ‘This Used to be My Playground’ runs through my head, though ‘Like a Virgin’ would be more apt for the 18 years I spent there. Frankly it’s distracting. I don’t want to see my sad 14 year old self sitting on the sofa watching Antiques Roadshow on a rainy Sunday, when I’m in the Crossfit gym trying to throw a 75 pound barbell over my head. There’s only so many times you can pass tears off as sweat.
Miles and I have already started the ‘what do you want to take’ game. Fortunately I’m limited by space and distance. Instead of furniture, my inheritance will include a set of three milk jugs (always handy), some of those blue stripey kitchen jars that I’m sure Mrs Bridges had in Upstairs Downstairs and a delicate girly tea service that is unlikely to ever be bothered by tea.
But how do we divide up the photo albums that chronicled our every day trip, holiday, dog, party and new school year. I think I’d like the years 1965-1971 when I was sort of cute. I’ll happily skip the lank hair and the too embarrassed to live years.
Then there’s the stuff that I don’t really want but don’t want to chuck either. Envelopes full of cards that Miles and I made — Easter, Christmas, Mothering Sunday and in his case ‘I’m very very sorry mummy’ cards. All of them a bit crap because neither of us are much cop at arts and crafts. But also the letters my dad sent home when he was away on business, that started ‘My darling Audrey..’
It’s hard to see your parents as anything other than your parents. I would look at photos of them as children, as teenagers, in their early 20s and feel this disconnect to the people I lived with. As wrong as it feels to be going through their stuff, I think I know them better or at least have a greater appreciation for their life. I’ve started to see 9 Ham Lane through their eyes. The excitement of a new 4 bedroom house in a pretty village, surrounded by strawberry fields, and as yet, untainted by yobs and plebs.
I wish I could impress her with my remarkable new insights, do a bit of a “This is Your Life’ on her. But the silver lining of Alzheimers is that she will never know that we’re selling the house from under her.
Guilt is great for changing your perspective. I’m getting misty-eyed about a house that I’ve never liked very much. About possessions that I never cared much about. About a lineage that isn’t even mine. But I’m still a little emotional about seeing it all go. More visions of myself surface, but this time I’ve strapped myself to the aeriel, singing ‘this used to be my childhood dream’ and refusing to leave.