My grandfather’s house is likely to be sold sometime this year. At the moment it now belongs to my mother as next of kin and although it would be nice to retain it in the family (my grandparents owned it for a good 60 years) practically that is just not going to be possible.
I’m going to find letting go of it very difficult. It is a house that holds very happy childhood memories for me and it is a house that I have visited on and off every week for the last 40 years. As children me and my sisters would spend every Sunday there with my grandparents and during school holidays every Wednesday too.
It was an idyllic time. Grandparents tend to be softer and more easy going than parents so my memories of my time with them are very warm. I can remember my Nan used to have a huge square dining table with fold out leafs and for some reason my sisters and I, when very small, would play beneath it, sitting on the crossbars that braced the legs, imaging we were in a vast sailing ship.
I can remember also being in my Nan’s kitchen, standing on tiptoe to see the stew bubbling on the cooker or later, when I was a little older and taller, being allowed to stir the boiled milk into the custard powder as my Nan stirred it in. It was a special treat to be allowed to help my Nan cook in her kitchen.
Whenever I visit the house now – and I am visiting frequently to make the most of it while I am able – I am assailed by these memories and more. It is both a comfort and a heartbreak. Just the smell of the house almost fools me into believing that my grandparents are just in the next room. I guess metaphysically, if your beliefs are that way inclined, they kind of are. I find myself pining to go there – seeking comfort I guess – and yet when I am there the absence of life is very upsetting and just brings home the reality that those who gave the house its true warmth are no longer there.
The furniture, the clocks, the ornaments all seem to speak with voices that I can’t quite hear but that I can feel... old times, past times, times gone by. Happy days as my Nan was often fond of saying when she herself reminisced. But their voices are fading now. Getting quieter. My days of access to the house are numbered. I’d love to buy it (if I were a millionaire) but I have to be realistic – it’s smaller than my own house so would not be practical. And keeping it as a shrine is a very bad idea. My sister and her husband are looking to buy a house but sadly not in Leamington so it is not an option for them either. And my mother, living in Sheffield, quite understandably wants matters sorted and settled as soon as possible.
It is inevitable then that the house will be emptied, sold and find itself occupied by new people starting a new history together within its walls. It’s the right thing to happen. But it makes me sad to think of it. Silly, I know, to get so emotionally attached and sentimental over bricks and mortar.
For at least as long as I have been alive my Nan had an old fashioned egg timer hung on the kitchen wall. Above it, painted into the small wooden panel that it is mounted upon is the legend “Kissin’ don’t last, cookin’ do”. It always amused her to read this out to us as children. With my mother’s permission I have taken this egg timer home as a small keepsake.
It reminds me of my Nan and of how little time we have with those we love.
And of how, despite my Nan’s wry amusement, sometimes it’s the cooking that doesn’t last but the kissing, the love, that does.