giovedì, febbraio 21, 2013

First world problems: family house

I dreamt about Scarborough last night. I was taking the train into town with my aunt, and some cousins I think, and we passed a row of houses along the cliff front with superb design values and shiny new burgundy funiculars heading right down to the beach.

"I always thought that if I got really rich I'd buy Granny and Grandpa's old house back," I remarked to my aunt, "but maybe I'll just get one of those instead."

She smiled her approval, but even in the dream, and even though they were beautiful, I didn't mean it. I was just saying it because I knew she wanted that house gone. I knew those houses on the friable sandy bluffs would slip into the sea, maybe in a matter of mere decades. They weren't legacy houses. They weren't something my children could use with their children.

And neither will G&G's house be. I don't blame them one little bit for selling it, my aunt and my mother, and that's even before I factor in the emotional side of their lack of healthy attachment to that house. There were basically zero candidates in my generation to use it on a regular basis, aside from me, and that not for at least two years, and that only for holidays, which - England being England, that fucking deregulated dump of a country with all the inconveniences of northern Europe and few of the benefits - would be untenably expensive and difficult in insurance, maintenance, services, mold, etc. terms.

Mum did consider it until faced with the resounding indifference of my generation, some of whom are more into wilderness holidays, others of whom are more into Caribbean resorts, and others of whom just don't have the money to jaunt off across the Atlantic for a short stay in fairyland, and she worked out the sums in her head, and said if I cared to spend time there with my family she'd just rent us a holiday flat because it'd be cheaper. I won't let her do that of course, but her point was made.

But - besides Magnum, whose chip on the shoulder about G&G has become deeply ingrained over the years, and besides the littlest, whose reasons I won't speculate much on because I don't know - we did all make our final pilgrimages back before Granny died. Considering how much she disliked us I wonder if it was actually the house we were saying goodbye to. Especially as the littlest did make a pilgrimage back after she died, and was with his mother when she handed over the keys. Last night's dream and today's heavy nostalgia was sparked off by him posting pictures of the empty house on his Facebook page.

I'm spending a small fortune putting the furniture and some other odds and ends from the house in storage; in fact if the timing works out, it'll cost about the cash amount Granny left me in her will, which is serendipitous to the point that I'm half-managing to convince myself it's what Granny intended at some deeply-buried level of collective unconsciousness. And I'm glad that's waiting for us when we get back to Europe, in a way I'd have to write for a long, long time to quantify. But it's strangely gutting to remember the house. It's making this song stick in my head:

Nick Cave is at his best violent or mournful, I always think.

And I think what's pulling at my guts the most this morning is the way the house smelt. A sort of combination of Fairy washing up liquid, fabric softener, the greenness of the garden, lavender, cleanliness and a hint of the mold that one was always fighting back in the attic. And Granny, of course. It smelt inescapably like her. And as little fondness as we had for each other - I loved her, but it wasn't possible to be fond of her, and I think she was fondest of me by the time dementia had helped her forget I was her granddaughter and not someone she used to know from the bank - that combination is probably my favourite smell in the world that doesn't belong to my mother, father, old man or son.

Gone forever now, I suppose. Of course Granny being dead meant it would be gone forever anyways, house being sold or not, but when I saw the pictures of the empty house on Facebook that sort of reasoning was beyond me. Anyways, when I die, if I've been sufficiently good, I expect the afterlife to smell more or less like that. And I hope that in a couple of years if I stick my face into the wardrobes, etc., that I've had socked away, I'll still be able to sniff a bit of it out.

The other thing that's pulling at my guts is that the house was ours, as well as G&G's. A common point of reference for me and my brothers and my cousins, wrapped up in our mutual childhoods in a way no other place is, either singly or collectively. In the same way G&G were ours - a shared and difficult way that most outsiders, even those who didn't get on with their grandparents, couldn't possibly appreciate because of our very particular circumstances.

Well, as my boss (who's Buddhist in the same way I'm Catholic) told me, aging is a process of falling away and letting go. I don't think any material falling away and letting go will be quite so psychologically fraught as this one, though.

3 commenti:

e.f. bartlam ha detto...

This is almost sentimental...I could nearly smell the tears welling up in your eyes. That Boy has really gotten to you.

My Daddy lives in the house his Daddy built. It's the only roof left that I've slept under all my life. It would be hard to see that place sold.

I think Heaven will smell like vinyl chairs, coffee, cigarettes and hair spray...everybody will be given a cokecola and a bag of peanuts to pour in it. It's gonna be just like the offices my Daddy worked in when I was little.

Melbine ha detto...

Shit, when did your Granny die? I didn't know!! So, so, so sorry. This post made me want to cry. I daydream about buying back my grandparents' hotel/bar and restoring it to its former glory. I think how you're feeling is really, really normal. xoxoxo

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

Heaven will probably have the scent of jelly beans and freshly cut hair for me as well, e.f.. Can't really visualize it but I've got some good college guesses about the smell.

She died back in . . . uhm . . . week 33, Mel. Actually I remember, it was really soon after her birthday in September - she died a few hours afer her 100th birthday party.

There's something a little unnatural about changing habitats so often, I think. I know we were nomads for most of history, but nomads have places they always go back to.