Something I find utterly bewildering is the fact that this house, that my husband and I bought just after we married and have been filling with junk ever since, is my children’s home. All the random things we have done and not done to the house (done: made sure they each had a bedroom; not done: order and tidy our belongings) set the scene for their early childhood memories, in the same way that I look back on my own childhood and most of it takes place in my home in the Netherlands.
I can paint you a picture of this house with my memories:
On the 5th of December, someone would knock on the door and our wicker laundry basket would be outside filled with presents from Sinterklaas. The back of the sofa in the extension could be pushed forward to create a reception desk, a bar, a bus or aeroplane. My mother would always play Scarlatti on the piano and when I was older I taught myself to play the first 16 bars of it, out of nostalgia. Now I play it on any piano I come across. My brother and I had our own computer but for most of my writing I would sneak into my parents’ study and sit at my Mum’s far superior PC to create never-to-be-finished novels and deeply sentimental poetry. I slept in the loft and had always wanted a four poster bed, like a princess. For one of my birthdays, my parents put up curtain rails around the bed, screwed into the beams, and I woke up in the middle of the night to find my Mum quietly putting up pink curtains to make my princess bed, all ready for when I woke up on my birthday.
These are the moments that we are creating for our children right now, in this house. The enormity of it hit me this week. Hence my poem for today.
This is the home of your youth
where your childhood takes place
where your foundations are laid
where your memories are made.
You will think back to this house one day
with a thrill of nostalgia:
remember how the wind would howl
around the house, in all seasons
– you will say –
the house on the hill, the overgrown garden?
Remember the mess, the boxes in corners
that didn’t have homes
YET, Mum would say
but there they would stay
we never looked at them, they were
furniture, part of the décor,
just papers and wires and broken CDs.
Remember how we played hide and seek
and had picnics with teddies and plastic cake;
and how we were explorers, built towers,
climbed mountains of cushions,
made a pirate ship out of your bed
and sailed off to plunder the kitchen?
Remember how I’d sneak into your room
in the dead of night, with a flash light,
and we’d talk in the dark about bullies
and loneliness and friends who were cruel?
One day you will meet, all grown up, over coffee,
the house may be sold, or you have moved out,
and your minds will have blended and softened the edges
so even sadness or sorrow gain a magical glow.
But first, you must live through these days and grow up here
make memories for later, grow love play and cry
in the unfettered joy of your childhood
build our love for each other
into a happy home.
(c) Judith Kingston, 2013
Linking up to Prose for Thought.