I read an article in the hairdressers today about your house being the vessel for memories and it prompted these memories:
I was the last to leave 32 that day. We were all quieter than usual, that “packing day”, sad, lonely, all remembering different days and past times and occasions as we packed and cleared. We’d maintained our equilibrium all through the day however as we filled the skip in the lane.
It used to make her sad to see the treasures of her neighbours go into a skip so I promised her we’d put it on the lane out of sight. It was hard to know what to dump – it all had a place in our memories. Everything we picked up had a “remember the day we ….” or an “Oh look at this!” or “I often wondered where that got to!” story attached. The treasures that a world would value – silver, glass, tea-sets, had already been divided and dispatched to our various homes. Some of the trinkets that held special memories for us individually – the plaque I brought from a tour, the bottle I gave her from a holiday, a book I shared with her, the more personal memorabilia had also been taken.
Now we were down to “the rubbish”: discarded and chipped ornaments, newspaper cuttings, broken furniture and rusted gardening tools. And yet it was in this junk that I probably most clearly saw her. Her ghost still handled and minded and planned the recycle of every little piece – shells to be stuck on a flower-pot, a container for germinating seeds. She wasted nothing. And now I could feel her watching as we threw out the things we “wouldn’t realise were needed till they were gone”. And just as I sneaked some odd and useless curiosities silently into my bag, so did the others. And this we knew was the REAL goodbye.
When all the others were gone, I took a last walk through the now empty rooms of my childhood. I remember the first day we came here, leaving 19 O’Curry Road, the birthplace that allowed me to forever consider myself a “Liberties Girl”. 32 looked so huge ….
I thought we had become RICH! A front and a back garden. This would be home now where over the next 5 decades we would make many, many, memories: growing up and older, fighting and making up, friends and loves, lots of joys, a wonderful mam and dad, all the shared events over the years. I’ve talked to others who remember sadness in their youth – I can only remember being loved, knowing so assuredly that I was always welcome. It was a house of welcomes and talk and laughter.
I thought of all the years when she sat here alone, the days she was wracked with pain, the nights when she knew her memory was fading. She never complained or asked for our attention. And I wonder, as she sat in her chair in the silence of this room, did she see again the Australian adventures of her youth and the Italian girl with the long black hair in the desk in front of her in that faraway school, the frogs on the road to Rathaspeg, the Wexford stories of history and romance when she sat in the front of the café in Wexford town reading the English newspapers about the royals, the Dublin excursions between work in Twomeys and the frivolity of cycling to Malahide beach on sunny Sundays with Jimmy, Joe and Maureen, marriage to the Guinness long distance driver (Cork and Donegal were two-day drives at the time!!!), her six rowdy children.
We say that it’s the memories and people that make a home, not the things in it or the structure itself, yet when we’re forced to leave a treasured home behind, it certainly tugs at the heartstrings.
The memories we make there, bit by bit, laugh by laugh, with some heartache thrown in for good measure, make it seem inconceivable to ever abandon the house itself. I never anticipated the mourning that would ensue when we began the process of selling Mam’s home in Walkinstown.
It had always been well cared for. Mam and Dad had a real sense of pride in home ownership. And yes! it was a HOME, comfortable and welcoming, often untidy and cluttered with the treasures we brought. They decorated, bought new furniture, moved old furniture around, hung pictures that evidenced where we came from, positioned trophies and plaques that honoured our achievements, planted the garden. I remember the cushions and the throws and the many crafty bits and bobs she made, the “finds” he brought home and painted for hanging in some nook, all the things that made it OUR HOUSE.
The memories created there took on more profound meaning than ever after Dad died there in 1990 and Mam left for Celbridge in 2004. The house was our constant – I think it gave us a focus, a common something to talk about: it pulled us together and made us feel safe when we were so vulnerable. Memories became immortalized. My lads moved in and became caretakers – it could still be HOME. Even the neighbours loved that it was still “the O’Loughlin’s house”, still minded, still cared for, still loved and still bringing us back to visit.
And then we could pretend no longer – mam would never return and the house was put up for sale. Now I’m saying goodbye to the a place of memories.
So what is it that makes us mourn the loss of a structure? It’s not the great architecture, or the way the light pours in through the windows in the morning. It’s the loss of the vessel that held our memories. It’s almost as if leaving a home rich in such a lived-in history causes our memories to spill out everywhere, and we feel like we’ve spun out of orbit, scrambling to collect them. So I know it’s possible to grieve the passing of a home,
But I have to remember that I’ve lost the vessel, not the memories. I’ll just have to build a new place to hold them.
But as I wandered around for that last time with my camera, i took no photos. This was not what I wanted to remember. so no photos of an empty building…..I know I won’t forget the home – the photos are forever in my head! So I closed the door, dropped the keys to Foleys and was gone.