I’m one of those people in life that likes looking back. It’s not that I don’t like looking forward, I enjoy that too, but for me, there’s something I love about taking a trip down memory lane. Now that I’m at home with Pip, I find this happens more frequently, and in random moments, I like to flick through the back catalogue of life, pull out a memory from the dusty recesses of my mind, and try to bring the colour back from the grey; reminiscing and remembering. Sometimes on dark or dreary days, I find it gives me comfort.
In a post last week, I wrote how I’d recently crossed the milestone of spending half my life with my husband. We met when we were eighteen. It seems a lifetime ago now. Enough time has passed, that sometimes, my husband will now talk about things in our shared life that have happened (aside from the significant milestones) and I can’t remember a single thing about it. It’s impossible to remember all of the same things over such a vast period of time, (that’s what I tell myself anyway, rather than I might have early onset amnesia). So, sometimes when I can’t remember, I just have to take his word for it - if he says that’s how it was, then that’s how it was.
I find that from the period we started living together, in our mid twenties, the memories are clearer. Maybe it’s because they’re simply 7 years later, but I think it may be because bricks, and mortar, shared possessions, items chosen and bought together, and overall, the sense of sharing the same space, have made more connections in my mind.
I was reading something recently which asked: Is it good to reminisce? It was interesting to read people’s comments. Some argued that looking back stops you moving forward, others that they find it a source of comfort or a help. I’m definitely in the latter camp. Happy memories of childhood, of teenage years, of work, of love and life, keep me anchored to who I am.
Recently, I had the opportunity to reminisce with Pip. He’s old enough now to be able to have a decent conversation. So, one day I shared with him the happy memory of this place.
This was the first flat that my husband and I bought together. A duplex flat in a church conversion in West London. Ours was one of only four flats that had a little balcony cut from the eaves in the roof. Oh, how we loved that flat. When we viewed it as potential buyers, it was a dark cavernous space, stacked with furniture; the owners hoarding problem was so bad you could barely get into the kitchen for chests of drawers and wardrobes. But, he was emigrating, so he and the furniture had to go. We looked beyond the clutter and saw a home with real potential we could make our own.
This was the flat where we got engaged, the flat that we came home to after getting married, the flat where as our wedding presents were delivered I whooped with joy like a small child, as polystyrene balls found their way everywhere as I ripped open the boxes. It was the blank canvas on which we experimented with our novice DIY skills. The place we drank copious amounts of wine, and held dinner parties so late into the night that our friends could barely stand when their taxi arrived. We made it light, roomy and spacious; here we found room to grow, individually and together.
We had happy, happy times at the flat. There were many things I loved about it. But, the thing I loved most about it though, was it’s little balcony. Sliding doors from the kitchen opened out underneath a stone arch, onto a small tiled area just larger than your metaphorical handkerchief. The balcony overlooked the green trees of the gardens in the quiet road behind, and surrounded by our small window boxes filled with herbs and evergreens, it became a peaceful oasis in the sky. Come rain or shine we would be out on that balcony. Eating a cooked breakfast, at our small garden table on a February morning, cold enough you could see your breath in the air, or, in the summer sitting playing cards, with a glass of wine or two, on a balmy evening, before tucking into an al fresco meal.
Of course, none of this would mean much to Pip. But, he’s aware of the place, because three times a week, when I take him to playgroup we drive right past it.
One day, as we sat directly opposite, in nose to tail traffic, I said:
“ Mummy and Daddy used to live there. It’s where we lived when we got married.”
“You used to live there Mummy, in the church?” (If that seemed weird to him, he didn’t question it.)
“Where was I Mummy? Did I live there too?”
I should have expected that one. For him there is no concept of life BP (before Pip). As far as he’s concerned he’s always been here.
“ No darling. You weren’t born then.”
“Where was I then, Mummy? Was I in your tummy?”
“Where was I then Mummy?”
Hmmmm. Oh dear. What next? A flash of inspiration;
“ You were just a twinkle in Daddy’s eye.”
He thought about it for a while. And then he smiled, and repeated it to himself. And I could tell just from the little smile on his face, that he liked that. A lot.
Unsurprisingly, in the mind of a nearly 3 year old, things can get a little twisted. One thing’s for sure, he seems to have inherited my love of reminiscing. I can guarantee that each day we drive past our old abode, a little voice will pipe up from the back of the car, to share with me his slightly potted version of our life history.
“Look, Mummy. That’s the place where you and Daddy got married (Not strictly true), and I was the twinkle in Daddy’s eye, and then he put the twinkle in your tummy. And then I was a baby, and then I came out and said Peekaboo!” (The story then normally ends, “and then I drank milk from your boobies”. (See this post.)
Every time I hear his little voice regale our life story it makes me smile. Like pieces of patchwork, old fabric next to new, recent memories interlock with old ones. Now each time I walk or drive past, I have not just one, but two great reasons why this is, and always will be, one of my happy places.