Sunday, 8 November 2009

Walsall my home town.... good or bad?

Last night I did something very strange that could have been awful or great. I had no idea which.

I've now met two friends through Friends Reunited, that I was good mates with at school, forty years ago. Where did the time go, who stole it away, did I sleep through some years?

The first one I met with a couple of years ago now, and she lives in Devon. And we are now as close friends as we were when we were 15, which is lovely. And being able to be close enough to her to have a coffee together is definitely a good reason to move down there, amongst others, just in case I sound like a scary stalker!

The second one, P, came to my house in the summer for lunch. We got on really well, little had changed about either of us, we told each other, well except for those wonderful experience lines that come with age!! ( I'm calling them that, cause wrinkles should be banned as a word)

Anyway we've been trying to organise a night out in Walsall, my home town that I left when I was 21. And finally last night it happened. But we were not alone, along came another school friend and a further mate from the disco/night club I used to frequent who when I knew her I had gone out with her boyfriend of two years. Who I went out with for five. Was she going to scratch my eyes out after all these years??

We went to what apparently is the only pub in the area which is safe from 'yoof' and was full of people of a certain age. As an aside Walsall seems to be a really happening place at night judging by the number of clubs/people/police I saw!

As G said as I was leaving, that I had taken a risk driving for an hour to met them, as it could have turned out really badly. But in fact it was a really great night out.P and I went for a meal first so we could catch up on ourselves. So my mind was free then to take in the others.

G and B who are the same age as me,and are grandmothers several times over and have eldest children well into their thirties. Now whilst I realise that isn't abnormal, I suppose cause mine are 24 and 18 I'd got my head stuck in my not being old enough to be a granny any time soon! So it was quite a shock to be admiring the baby pictures on G's blackberry.

We did do some reminiscing but by and large the conversation was about now. Three of us are very independent women who are happy not to be in an all consuming relationship. So there was lots of laughter and serious stuff about invisibility versus confidence, underwear, illnesses,cake and all things that make up a good evening in my opinion.

I felt I'd known these women for ever.... which of course is truish! But we've just being keeping out of each others way for a few years! What was really nice was they all asked me to go back out with them again. They didn't have to do that, of course. And these women are not the types just to be socially polite because they have to be. They are genuine salt of the earth,strong minded women, who have been happy to stay in their home place and make their lives there. They saw me as quite strange and somewhat exotic in my leaving home at 21 and not marrying the love of my life from then, and going to live in so many other places.And being so career minded, as they have not gone down the same professional route I have.

So at the end of the evening, I felt in a good place with myself and them, and would happily except another invitation to hang out with them.

Then the evening got tough.

I hadn't been near my old family home for six years since Dad died. For the first six months after he died my sister and I kept in close touch with my stepmother and visited her frequently. But due to amazing difficulties, courtesy of my Dad's will the relationship came to a horrible and acrimonious end. And my sister and I made the decision to pay her off,to safeguard our family possessions that went back to our Great Grandparents through to our Mum and Dad.

The wicked stepmother took her money and sold up, and went who knows where and who cares ,I certainly don't. I blame her for Dad's death. My sister and I manged to get him off the booze for some time, and she didn't like drinking alone so that was the slow end of that.

I digress, so after leaving my new, old friends, I drove to the place I lived in for 17 years and carried on visiting up until six years ago. It was hugely different. There was an extension above the garage. There was a massive extension into the back garden.(I know this as I drove to the road round the back to look!)The windows were all new, the plants around the garden had all gone. It was like a Southfork house. All the wonderful character had been ripped away and replaced with blandness. Now Of course I knew these things were going to happen, it was ripe for developing, but it was still a shock.

Particularly as my penultimate visit six years before when my sis and I had gone in friendship to see the WS had such a profound affect on me. When sis and I left the house the garden was covered in white feathers. They were not as if a bird had been caught and killed by a cat. They were largish white feathers. They were in the garden, on the pavement and by my car.

No-one else seemed to notice(see) them. My sis is not that observant anyway, but it was still so strange. And what I had was a conviction that I would never go to that house in friendship again. I felt beyond doubt that my parents and/or angels had put those feathers there to say Goodbye to sis and me. To allow me to walk away from my childhood home and not hold on to it anymore.

It proved to be true, as the only other visit sis and I made there was to take a van and remove our parents and family's things from the house. And then last night.

This year the anniversary of Dad's death passed me by in a fugue of pain and broken bits. So it felt that because I was being given this opportunity to go to Walsall I needed to go and check 'home' out.

It wasn't home, it was just another building and I spent my time looking with wonder at what had happened to it.

My parents weren't there. My parents are in the things around me, my history. Not in a particular thing, but in my memories of how that thing was used or mattered to them. So to have these things around me, in the same way as I have a box full of children's drawings and paintings to look at again one day, they give me a sense of continuity with the world.

I've said before I don't have a place I call home, but I do have the treasures of my life that means wherever I am, home is around me. And if there is one thing I'm good at it's making house! From my first built dens, to making a boat or a caravan cozy I make house, and therefore home, for myself and those who are with me.

So today, as ever I feel a mixture of emotions, but mainly sad. So I'm going to walk round my house and talk out loud to my Mum and Dad, who I miss so much, and just touch the desk or jug or silver cigarette box and let myself be held in those thoughts for a moment.


Paula said...

I hear you and know so well how it aches not having a home. Mill of hugs. Mail is on the way. xx

Minnie said...

Beautiful post, picking its way carefully through painful paths towards a sense of reconciliation with the past.
So glad the reunions turned out well! Wouldn't dare do this myself, as feel too ashamed (an old school acquaintance found me via FR a few years ago & ceased contact once she knew how bad things were; so did another ... enough, already!).

lakeviewer said...

What a bittersweet visit to your home town! It's like that for all of us; things change, and what we came to see and feel doesn't materialize.

Your boys are going to go through the same emotions, leaving and yet wanting the connections to still be there.

This is a cornerstone post, Mandy. It speaks to what we crave and can't have.

Ronjazz said...

FB, I talk out loud to the cosmos all the time. Friends, workmates, even some kind of Almighty. There is always value to me in getting it all out there. Tell your parents hello from a man they've never met, and that he says that their daughter is a really great and wonderful woman!

Zan said...

Love the way you write!
My parents moved around so often (never lived more than 4 years in the same place) so my childhood was kinda scattered all over the place and the houses that I have passed by (quickly mind you I do not like looking back) they have all changed. Nothing left of me there, or us as a family which is quite painful when it's presented before your very eyes.

I'm glad the reunion went well!! :)
Hope you'll meet up with your friends very soon again!

kj said...

ah, fb, you and i wrote on the same wavelength.

i understand.


Lori ann said...

Ah Mandy love. Hugging you right now, such a sweet post. I think more of us can relate to this feeling. Yes, home is where you are. And that's okay. And good even♥

janis said...

Oh what a beautiful Post! You write so wonderfully and I felt as thought you were talking directly to me in conversation. I completely get what you said too. About the past friendships, and about the childhood home.
I have learned over the years that forever friends are just that. We pick up where we left off without missing a beat. As for the home, I get that too. For me home is where I am with those I love. Period.
Love to you Firebyrd! Thank you for sharing your adventure and feelings.

Angela Recada said...

As you say toward the end of this deeply moving post, home is not really a place. After all is said and done, it is in those you love, in your heart, and in your memories. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I'll be thinking about this post for a long time.

Pam said...

Can't tell you how much I appreciated this post Mandy. You wrote it in such a lovely intimate way, open and honest,and I think the heart-to-heart revelations are wonderful.One bit in particular affected me. When you wrote "my parents weren't there. My parents are in things around me...memories of how that thing was used or mattered to them".I am facing the fact that with my Dad's failing health, he could go at any time.When my parents sold up the family home weeks ago, and he was in hospital,my brother and I had to sort out old possesions of Dad's mostly taped-up junk.Now only a few of his "re-constructions" and Alzheimer-induced repairs( which my brother wanted to throw out), are in the shed at the new unit, because to me they are "so Dad".These couple of items, ie. a torch that makes Dr. Who's inventions look tame, I will keep when he dies, but it will be hard to look at them.For those that say keep reminders of him in happier times,his damn repairs were always like that. Drove Mum mad.Glad you had a great time with

trousers said...

Finding it hard to write a comment that does this post justice: but it engaged and moved me, and contains much that resonates. I hope you're coming to terms with the very contrasting experiences you've vividly described.


Mel said...

*nodding in agreement with ronjazz*

(((((((((((( the byrdie )))))))))))

This is my home. My only home. There's sadness in that fact. But there's great joy in having a place that is a home, yaknow?