Apprenticed to my Mother: moving out

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Eventually we packed. I dreaded the move day itself for any number of reasons. My children were not speaking to me: ‘How can you let Grandma sell her home?’ – for them the building and, especially the garden, were inextricably linked to their grandma and now deceased grandpa and all sorts of happy memories of being spoilt rotten.

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Taking that away was painful even if I carefully explained the reasoning why the house was too big and the garden too much of a burden. They understood, intellectually, but emotionally they thought I hadn’t tried hard enough.

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Mum wasn’t exactly the life and soul either. She had pretty near exhausted herself getting packed up and fending off the Archaeologist and my best efforts to sneak stuff off to the dump.

There had also been some last minute complications at her new house, involving the video entry system. She hated it so to have the engineers around when she was moving gave her grounds for one of her distant but distinct rumbles: like a sort of human cumulus nimbus looming over the horizon threatening thunder. This fantastic idea of mine to enhance her security was to be constantly thwarted by mum who, on hearing the bell, opened the door and adjusted the camera height before peering at the visitor to see who it was because, in truth neither the picture on the little screen nor her eyesight allowed a clear enough image for her to discern their identity. Having worked out who had rung, she would, if she didn’t know them, shut the bemused visitor back outside until she had asked for their name via the intercom and, if satisfied, only then pressed the entry button to release the door.

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At an early stage however she let me know that she didn’t like the noise the bell made and, because I hadn’t been able to re-programme it, waged a campaign to turn the whole thing off off leaving her without any easy way to realise someone was outside. My fault of course.

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Mum and dad’s chairs from which they watched countless hours of TV and, in mum’s case made countless things

The removal company were grand. The move was efficiency itself and, now ensconced on a chair by the door, well wrapped and supplied with tea, mum directed the box carriers to their destinations. She spent some time in the kitchen helping unpack the essentials while we of the middle generation set up her bedroom and the bathroom. By the end of a long day we had her ready and only another 117 boxes still to empty.

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In the way of these things I was the man left behind to make sure nothing remained at Silver Crest. The removal men knew they could ask me any question about what had been agreed to be left.

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So when they mentioned the 200 plus plastic flower pots that still languished behind the shed I said to leave them. If the buyer complained I’d take them to the dump but I couldn’t foresee that mum would need them. Maybe the 20 or so which I put in my car. How wrong I was to be.

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It was a strange feeling, standing in the dining room and looking out of her net curtains onto the front car port and main road. How many Christmases had we eaten there? How many meals with Dad at the table head, distributing wine and philosophy with an equal disregard for the enthusiasm of the recipient to receive it?

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Part of dad’s many collections: he took no eggs after about 1965, let me assure everyone. Sadly, as you can see some had already broken.

Mum sat with her back to the window and next to the door so she could hasten to the kitchen for the next course or extra meat and veg. The Archaeologist sat opposite me, his back to the chimney breast and trapped by mum and dad – this made him less likely to be prayed into service by mum to carry whatever it was she planned to bring through. I’m sure that was coincidental!

 

What had always seemed a crowded room – what with the large table and eight chairs, the carved oak dresser and drinks cabinet, known to one and all as the pulpit and now housing a significant collection of home brewed and deadly calvados dad had acquired during the ‘twinning years’ when the local village, Hordle, found itself linked to Yervil, a small town in Normandy – now it stretched to a size that seemed unreal. All that remained was the telephone, an old fashioned version wired to the wall socket and made of British Telecom’s choicest puce plastic. It sat, forlornly on the floor lost on a sea of oddly well preserved carpet.

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I hated that phone. There was no privacy and the cord never seemed to stretch far enough away from prying ears. Now it seemed as sad as I was. I knew I should make one last sweep of the house but I couldn’t. How do you feel when you see someone you’ve known for ages and with whom you’ve felt secure stripped bare of all the character that defined them? My children were right; some part of each of those rooms framed a memory of my dad and later, after she died, my mum. I can see them now at that table, holding forth or laughing with us. I can smell the roasts, feel the glow of knowing there was a place on the planet where I could go and be loved whatever I’d done or said or thought or felt. Just as I’d shed many layers of skin into that oddly fresh carpet so I had implanted my memories into that room. Sure they wouldn’t be taken away from me but the sharpness of the recall that comes from a combination of sight and smell would now be lost.

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I locked the front door and got into my car. Mum was excited by her new adventure; had I explained my feelings to her she would have smiled and said. ‘You are so like your father. He was a sentimental old pillock too. Now what say you make me a Pimms and don’t you dare drown it?’

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These pictures were taken by the Vet, mum’s only granddaughter in the weeks before the move, determined as she was to capture some memory of the family home

A bit of prose from Dad this time written for the 40th anniversary of VE day in may 1985. In it he reminisces about the outbreak of WW2

September 1939

A slight breeze stirred the topmost twigs of my Uncle Edgar’s Victoria plum {Dad stayed with his uncle and aunt in Cambridgeshire every summer as a boy – in 1939 he was just about to turn 13}. The old tree was laden with fruit, rich and rosy-yellow, hanging like swollen raindrops along a gatebar. Overburdened branches sagged, and wasps, already gorged stupid on sweet juice, sluggishly shouldered their way into soft, ripe flesh.

On my way in the long grass I gazed upwards, squinting against the flickering sunlight. Leaves rustled, and a plum, half-filled with wasps, thudded quietly into the grass. For a few moments the disturbed occupants stopped eating and murmured crossly.

Now only the sun seemed to move, warming my face as it rose higher above the trees. I daydreamed, in a world all green and golden and fragrant with the perfume of my Aunt Mabel’s Sweet Williams.

My eyelids drooped.

I heard the kitchen window being opened and my Uncle saying, ‘Turn on the wireless, Mable.’ There was a peculiar whistling sound. The wireless set was warming up. Atmospherics scratched and crackled, then a tinny voice said ‘__ no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.’

I lay still. Down in the orchard a wood pigeon was cooing drowsily. Near my head there was another squashy thump. It was a marvellous year for plums.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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24 Responses to Apprenticed to my Mother: moving out

  1. Mary Smith says:

    I found this unbearably sad to read as it brought back memories of having to clear out dad’s house.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sue Vincent says:

    These are always beautiful to read, but this one makes the berevaement of memory clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allie P. says:

    I love the bit of prose from your father at the end. The brief snapshot of a moment that changes life as it was known seems so fitting for a piece about closing the door on a period of one’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jan says:

    I sometimes think it’s harder on the grandkids than us to close out a family home. I don’t know about you, but not all my memories of the family home were pleasant! I love your Dad’s writing – good year for plums indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Moving away from the heart and source of a lifetime of memories is hard. Thanks for sharing. ❤ ❤ ❤
    My mother refused to leave her house so we didn't sort the house till she died.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Erika Kind says:

    Oh, my, this touched me a lot! All those feelings coming together. But it is most wonderful how excited your mom is about her move!

    Like

  7. Such an evocative piece. (Pieces, I should say; yours and your Dad’s both.) I imagine it resonates with so many people. It made me think of helping my mother to move out of my childhood home after my father died; it was such a…..conflicting experience, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Bun Karyudo says:

    I found your post very touching, but I must admit I did find the bit about your mother using the security camera very funny too, especially what she does if she does recognize the person at the door.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Heartbreaking and gorgeous. And ahead of me yet even if so close to my door on several occasions which in no way prepared me for the eventuality. I love this piece, Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A very moving post Geoff and I love your dad’s writing at the end. Your mum is right you really are a sentimental pollock, but that makes you all the more endearing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. A very touching post, Geoff. As I’ve moved house at least 15 times in my lifetime, I can appreciate those feelings you talk about. I may not have lived in some of those places long, but I always made sure I was the last one to check every room before finally closing and locking the front door. Many memories go flashing through the mind and I certainly heard some of the ghosts laugh and talk as I took in the feel of each of the rooms. Sad, but new doors are always opening.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Helen Jones says:

    Humorous, but also beautifully poignant, Geoff. The bit about the intercom made me laugh, but then you tore the heart with your words about how it felt to stand in your family home one last time. And your father’s prose was wonderful – glimpse of a vanished world.

    Liked by 1 person

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