Monday, February 15, 2010

A much loved childhood home

After writing about my wistfulness over St Valentine's Day yesterday morning, I pulled myself together. Calling the dogs, I set out for the first good long walk of the year.

As we strode up the cart track, the three of us filled our lungs with the damper more congenial air. Maud and Billy sped off. It was so good to see Maud almost back to her normal self.

And - I saw the first lambs - and the catkins were smothered in pollen, looking as if they were dusted with mustard powder, and swinging from the branches. I have written before about my love for the changing seasons, and yesterday I felt myself unfolding, and better able to face the world.

The dogs put up a muntjak deer, a pheasant, a rabbit, life was good they were saying to me, at last we can enjoy ourselves once more.

As usual on a good walk, I became deep in thought. This was what I hsve missed recently, fresh air and thinking time.

The senior daughter has been coming and going since her arrival back in the UK in late November. When she has been here, we have been clearing out the attics and cupboards. We have spent many an afternoon sitting on the floor, sorting through old photographs, letters, bags of possessions. Over the past 16 years, I have had to clear out my aunt's flat, my mother's apartment in Spain, and my stepmother's cottage. Most of the belongings were brought back here, and stored in the attics.

What a rich haul of memories. Coupled with all the childhood possessions of my two daughters, I personally found it overwhelming.

What to keep, what to bin, what to sell, what to give to charity? Three months down the line, we still have not finished.

We found wonderful clothes made for my paternal grandmother's trousseau, about which the senior daughter has written on her blog, my uncle's cricketing sweaters and school reports and memorabilia from his Rugby schooldays before the War, my stepmother's hunting stocks, kid hunting gloves, stock pins, her hunting crop. My mother's long satin evening gloves and pretty lace edged handkerchiefs, photos, letters, my father's camel hair dressing gown and rug he had at boarding school.

And - a photograph album containing pictures of my childhood home. I was brought up by my maternal grandparents, even though both my parents were alive. I was born at the end of the War, in this house, in my grandfather's study. I lived there until my grandmother died, not long after I met my husband-to-be

I loved that house with a passion - sometimes still dream about it. I was a solitary child, it had a huge garden, six acres, and I spent hours outside, reading lying on a rug under the willow trees by the lake, playing with the dogs, riding my pony, annoying the gardeners, who were always 'reporting' me for picking the flowers, and the soft fruit when it was ripe. "Madam, Miss V has picked such and such again"! This was because every morning, the flowers and fruit and vegetables were picked and taken up to the house, and woe betide me if I interfered with this ritual. This is where I got my love of flowers from, I remember the baskets of roses and sweet peas, delphiniums, lupins, and peonies.

I remember the tennis lawn being mown and then rollered by the large old white horse kept solely for this purpose,his hooves wrapped in sacking to avoid marking the grass, being taught to ride my bike by my grandfather's chauffeur, Laurence. In a way, it was a typical Edwardian childhood, a step back in time. I was not allowed to eat my meals with the adults until I was 8 years old - but it was much more fun anyway to eat with the housekeeper in her sitting room!

I did love that house. My biggest treat was to sneak up to the attics where there were old leather suitcases filled with old photographs of family holidays taken between the Wars, my grandparents and my mother and her sister travelled widely all over Europe. (I found some of these albums recently) All kinds of strange possessions were in those attics, piles of old wooden skis and brown leather ice skates, gas masks, and old chamber pots!

Full circle, you see, as I am now clearing out my attics, and the senior daughter is fascinated by her finds. History repeating itself.

I long for my childhood home. I remember every nook and cranny, the creaking back staircase, the smell of the loft over the stables, where racks of apples were stored, 'Mr McGregor' chasing me like Peter Rabbit when I had my hands clasped round illicitly-picked raspberries, how I used to feel when the car turned into the drive when I returned from boarding school. How I used to hide in the kitchen garden when I knew I had handed over a terrible School Report! Memories, memories, how I hug them to me.


IsabelleAnne said...

Oh so pleased that you are writing here again! I loved reading about your childhood home and experiences. I, too, am sorting through several generations worth of possessions and find it a poignant experience of tears and smiles. You write beautifully about it.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Ferea said...

It's so good to read you again! Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories! Time to make some new this spring!

Welsh Girl said...

There is a lovely blush of Chimneys of Green Knowe combined with The Secret Garden over this post. I remember finding an air raid siren in my parents attic. Luckily for the valley I didn't set it off...

Red Lipstick Style said...

What fun going through all of these lovely things! I'm so glad you have your 'senior daughter' (I love her blog, she is a doll!) to help you think of great ways to make ends meet. I have often wished I would have been just a few years older when my father abandoned us so that I could have helped my mother salvage her possessions. She was too afraid of him, however, I now know that I could have attached his (very high) wages and forced him to comply with the law, thereby nulifying his threats to her.

You are a gem and it sounds like you could really do something fabulous with your collections! Best to you,

Aurora said...

@IsabelleAnne What a lovely comment! It's wonderful to disocver so many kindred spirits on line Ax

@ferea Thank you for coming back! Ax

@Welsh Girl Isn't it amazing what we find in the attics! Ax

@ Red Lipstick Style How lovely that you read LLG and me Ax