The Story of a House

I have done this untold times.

And here I need to stop and count how many, on my fingers: twice before the Outpost, twice there, once then, and again then, oh, and then, and up here, now. Ten times. Could I really have done this ten times: taken an old home and made it new.  Pulled down walls, put up new ones, ripped out plumbing, installed electrics (for none of the original inhabitants of these houses could ever have imagined the need for so many sockets – to charge all the devices that keep us tethered to our worlds, even as we float about them in the ether). 

There is a sort of reverence every time I consider a new-old place where somebody once lived. Once loved. Lived in. Loved in.  Did they decorate a Christmas tree in this room, I think, as I consider a wide, light sitting room, bowed windows so that the day streams in? Were there children? Did they hang stockings above that mantelpiece. Was this wooden floor, unpolished and scuffed now, like a mirror then, was is strewn with warm rugs? Did the wind whistle through its roof as insistently as it does now?

I always consider the people that came before. Why were they here? What did they do? How long was this their home? Did they love it? Where are they now? I know that sometimes I step from one room to another in the company of ghosts. I feel a chill, and I smell bats. Always bats.

When I polish this floor, for I will, will it gleam, admire its reflection in newly washed windows?  Will it?  Can I feel its soul now, this house, which has stood abandoned, often for years, if I stand still and silent and listen, will I respond with heart. Will I blow the life back into it?

And then I laugh, ‘a single bathroom in a three bedroom house!’ Ant laughs too – was ‘en suite’ even a thing back then, back whenever it was that somebody with hope and vision and exactly the right feel for a place so that they built this house perched where its occupants might drink in the view with sundowners, whiskey light with whiskey and soda. Did that happen here? Was there laughter? Or were there tears?

It feels like a gift, this being granted the time and space to step back into a dusty old life, look at some other family’s yesterdays through the prism of old-fashioned taps (glorious) and window winders which I want to steal and secret away like talismans. 

When I walk through the garden I will find there testament to every gardener that has ever dug green fingers into bloodred soil. So that their nails will be blackened with the cleanest dirt. I find bounganvilleas with trunks as thick as a man’s thigh, knotted, gnarled, aged, but whose blossom is still vibrant and hot so that it litters a desiccated lawn like confetti. I find lavender strung with blueness and bees. And a hidden orchard where a crop of loquats are fattening and tiny peaches hard as stones.  And pepper trees, always pepper trees under whose puddled shade a baby might have slept in a pram, or lain and watched the sky through a latticework of leaves.

When I leave, lock the door, will the house resume its voice – for all houses have one I have found, in the window rattles and sticky door clicks, in faucets that squeak and floorboards that creak. And every person whose ever lived in them has grown to be comforted by the familiarity of a home’s language.  

Once they understand it, can interpret it.

I always try to listen carefully.

2 Responses to “The Story of a House”

  1. Addy Says:

    I have often thought that too. Are you moving again?

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