By Eliza Deacon I’m cooking dinner on the stove, a 3 hr slow-cook lamb ragu with a bottle of good Chilean Merlot thrown in to help it along. The kitchen is dimly lit, soft sounds on the radio, I have a glass of wine on the surface next to me. The house is surprisingly quiet; my nephews asleep, tucked up in the room that was once mine, its eaves still painted with clouds.
I’m in my father’s house in England, the house I grew up in. A house that still carries, in its very fibres, all the memories both good and bad: a happy childhood, sunlit days like old 70s images, a little faded around the edges now but still remembered, and the loss that shaped all of our lives.
I flit through memories as I stand here barefoot on the wooden floor. As I stir the pot, I can see my mother sitting at the kitchen table in front of a stand-up mirror. She deftly applies her make-up, her “modeling face”, before she leaves to catch the train to London. I watch her transform, big eyelashes that make her eyes appear huge, a perfect mouth that kisses me before she goes, her scent---Rain Flower---lingers on after she has left.
She comes home and cooks us crispy pancakes for supper, the ones with the cheese filling which we love. Kate and I are both bad eaters, fidgety and easily distracted, so Mum leaves out what she calls our “bird table”. We come and go, furtively for whatever reasons at the time; she pretends not to watch as slowly the plate empties.
She and Dad gently coaxed us through our childhood. Soft, sweet memories: a handsome father, a beautiful mother, both slightly unusual in their own ways, a little different from other people’s parents and I will always wish I had appreciated it more at the time. Dad with his wealth of stories and personas: depending on his mood he could either be a ballet dancer to rival Nureyev, a brain surgeon, a Great White Hunter in Africa (he still tells people he ‘taught me everything I know’), a Russian count, an Arabian sheikh, a BBC language advisor, hired to help radio announcers properly pronounce world leader’s names such as Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ndabaningi Sithole. Funny, I still remember all that as clear as day. He loved that people would often believe him, but Kate and I were wise, we would have him hold his left-hand little finger up in the air if he was telling the truth; needless to say we were never really that sure.
When Kate and I were new babies, and we lived next to London’s Regent Park, he used to take us there every day in the big old-fashioned double pram. “Meet my sons Tom and Jerry” he would say, or sometimes we were “Knightsbridge and Kensington”, Knight and Ken for short. Mum would just shake her head and raise her eyebrows with good humour.
I remember the parties they gave where my sister and I would sit at the top of the stairs listening to the strains of Lester Lanin at the Tiffany Ball whilst the guests mingled below us. Trips to the sea where we ate hot sausage sandwiches and walked for hours through “elephants graveyards”, the rock pools exposed when the tide went out. I remember we were always wrapped up in many layers of clothing, or perhaps we never went there in the summer, although I’m not sure that would have made any difference knowing the vagaries of British weather.
As children we were given a free rein, far more than is considered common sense now. But this was the 70s when playing in the woods near our house never raised even a thought of the horrors that it does now. As a teenager I used to cycle for an hour each morning, leaving the house pre-dawn to go and ride my horse, a flighty thoroughbred, bareback through the fields; no hat, no saddle, no cares in the world.
All this I remember clearly, like I’ve only just walked backwards a few steps to find it. This house that is the caretaker of all our memories and carries them physically and soulfully: pictures on the walls, Mum’s modelling finery in the closet, cloudscapes on the wall. In this evening light, it all blurs, then slides into sharp focus then blurs again. Beautiful, soothing, healing. I know I’m home.
This piece was originally published here and is being republished with the author's permission.