Like the fields where I chased butterflies in my childhood, the mountain my husband loved to climb as a boy, or the beach where our children paddled and fished in tide pools, our house didn’t belong to me nearly as much as I belonged to it. I worked hard in the garden even though the roots of the eucalyptus trees bordering our property drank the water greedily; much faster than I could water it – leaving little to nourish the grass and plants.
Does a house have eyes and ears? If only it could tell me more about what it had witnessed. But maybe that depends on how often I ask that question and how much I am willing to hear.
I am an early riser, so I often sat on the landing which was sufficiently large to house me and our black Belgium Shepherd, Bonnie. I remembered how we had sat together for half an hour or so some mornings, me in my pajamas, the dog warming my feet as we huddled together under a rug to ward off the morning chill. Just before we moved, when our children were grown up, I sat there once again, without my dog this time, and replayed the past in my head.
I returned to the time when my three children were getting ready for school, rushing about noisily, dressing fast, lugging their heavy schoolbags and eating breakfast on the run. The house, like my heart, was filled with thoughts of my lovely, happy family.
In the stillness on the stairs, it was as if I could hear them all over again. I remember weekends when they were singing, listening to loud music, talking and giggling. I could hear the thud of footsteps in the bedrooms above me, showers running, toilets flushing, phones ringing, doors banging, voices rising and falling like wind through the trees. I heard lots of laughter filling the rooms and overflowing into a thousand empty spaces.
This house held countless memories from other times; times of want and times of plenty, good times, bad times, happy times as well as sad times. Our house was a memory bank that my late husband and I had invested in, beginning in the days when our children were young, hoping for a good return someday when we grew older.
But, when my husband became ill, we needed to leave our house as well as its memories. After packing up, it was time to go. I decided not to glance back at the house and to try and remember the good things only. And we drove away to the much smaller apartment we had purchased; one that I’d chosen in fifteen minutes, less time than my husband would have taken to choose tomatoes in the supermarket. The new apartment now rings with the sound of our grandchildren’s voices. If only our son, Doron were still here with us. Now it is time to make sure that all of our grandchildren know why and how he died. The older ones know, of course but, how does one tell the young ones?