I have said before, that to me, my relationship with this one hundred and sixty year old cottage is akin to a marriage. A marriage of two highly compatible souls that just like any other relationship, ebbs and flows but is retained by an intimate bond forged throughout the years.
In this house there are memories on every surface. In the skirting boards chipped by Finley’s scooter. In all the furniture Mark built from nothing, the kitchen Richard brought to life. There is where I brought my new born baby home and the place where I sobbed when life fell apart. There’s the bathroom floor I slipped and fell on, bashing my face and knocking myself unconscious (ouch!), the garden in which I have grown tomatoes, strawberries and a soul. Look there, behind the bannister and you will see a tiny slither of the frightening green and gold flocked landing wallpaper I chose when I was pregnant. In the bathroom a collection of floral paintings I have hunted in car boot sales across the land and on close inspection, the track of little feline paws that trotted across the painted floor too soon.
I know this house. I know who lived in it before I did, and the purpose it served before it was purely the dwelling place of those lucky enough to occupy it. I sometimes dream of those who must have queued up at the door to buy bread or other daily necessities. Each and every day I walk across the original wide planks on the dining room floor, tracing the route all those who live as ghosts here, used to tread. I know how it creaks at night. The gap between the roof tiles no-one seems able to fix. The trace of green paint the last occupant covered the house in. I know this house and it knows me.
And yet and yet and yet. There are periods of time in which we lose each other, this house and I. When the intimate secrets we share seem lost under clutter and the debris of a busy life. This always happens in Summer.
It happens when I am trying too hard to balance work with the demands and needs of a ten year old boy.
It happens when the air is stifling and the house is oppressed by windows that cannot be opened too wide in case our silly cat jumps out and decided to play chicken in the lane.
It happens and each and every time I resent it. I blame the house. I call it names. I declare living in such a tiny space is unmanageable. That a new house wouldn’t be so darn dusty. That I want to leave it, to call the divorce lawyers, throw in the key and run away to a space so pure and white and fresh and new that I would not have to deal with the horrors of watching something we love try to wear the indignities of the ageing process. Would not have to deal with memories stuffed in every corner.
What we need is some alone time when there is none to be had for at least a few weeks. Time to wander around these rooms reminding myself how good it feels when this house and I are in harmony. When it is mine again. No longer the preserve of children on sleepovers, or busy, buzzy bees whizzing around my head as I try to sleep, but mine again. So I can feel it almost smiling. So that I have the time to hug the house so it will hug us back.
This then is what is wrong. Like the man who wears the same face but seems to have replaced everything else that he was, the house feels lost to me, and I need to devote myself to it again, so we can both feel at home again.
This too shall pass. It is in fact a feeling, as fleeting as a hot Summer day.