Sunday, 11 March 2012

Five minutes, more than twenty years

Saturday - Petts Wood

We lived there once.

We moved in just a week before Megan was due, I brought her home from the hospital to the first house she ever knew. As she grew up, we walked through the town almost every day, crossing and re-crossing the foot-bridge over the railway, from east to west, past the library and the church, between school, shops and home. We picked blackberries in Jubilee Park when the weather was good, pick-and-mix in Woolworths when it was bad.

We learned about the Pett family as we played in their woods. I read the faded information boards, green with the moss and damp of the surrounding trees and told my children how the Pett dynasty had built ships for the royal navy. I was busy building my own dynasty then.

In Station Square, there used to be a gentlemen's outfitters. I remember peering into the carefully dressed window as I passed on my way to the bank or the chemist, it was full of tweed jackets, cashmere scarves, woollen socks.  I never bought anything then, and I'm sorry about that now. Today it's a coffee shop.

Sitting in the window where the clothes once were, I stir my coffee and look out across the square. There's a huge pub called the Daylight Inn. It was named for William Willett, a campaigner for daylight saving. I know there's a memorial for him in the woods; a huge sundial.  Just behind the Daylight there used to be a kitchen shop, with a small office above it, where I worked for twelve hours a week while Megan was at nursery. Cornwall Lord Chartered Accountants moved away long ago; but I still remember how I used to dash out of there at lunchtime to pick Megan up, I remember how she loved to cross the road to the bakers on the corner for a hot sausage roll.

Sunday - Sidcup

We lived there once.

I was nineteen when we moved in a month after getting married, and it was the first house I ever owned. In the nine years we lived there, I learnt to cook and clean, knit and sew; I worked out what it meant to be a wife and a mother.

Today, Megan is sitting in the car beside me as we drive into Sidcup. As we go past Queen Mary's hospital, where all my children were born, she chatters on incessantly; but I'm tense and tetchy with her, not really listening to anything she says. As we pass the roundabout, where I once thought she might arrive too soon, she reaches forward and turns up the volume on the CD player and just as we've done so many times before, we both start to sing.

A few minutes later, she points to a house up ahead "there it is - the one with the white fence." I turn into the driveway carefully, trying hard not to hit the gateposts, trying hard to sneak a look at the house.

Megan's friend Lara opens the door. She's smiling as she tells us to mind the wet floor "I've been cleaning for hours" she says proudly. We follow her into the kitchen, and admire the purple accessories - the toaster that matches the washing-up bowl and the cutlery, the purple leather bar-stools and the empty glass fruit bowl. Then she takes us on a tour of the rest of the house; the other rooms are big and bare. Upstairs we look at the bedrooms; I ask questions about where the furniture will go, I smile as she describes a small bedroom as a walk-in wardrobe.

We come to a third room "And this will be my room" says Megan. I picture the room she's left behind this morning, the bed piled high with black plastic sacks full of clothes and rubbish. I try to imagine what this room will look like in a month or two, when she's settled in here and forgotten to be tidy.

I don't stay long. They both come to the door to say goodbye. "come and see us as often as you want" says Lara generously. "Not too often" adds Megan.

I drive away slowly, not really thinking about where I'm going, along streets that were once familiar. It's only five minutes from the street we once lived in. Five minutes, more than twenty years.

I remember the excitement of moving into our first house in Sidcup, the pride of bringing Megan home to her first house in Petts Wood. I know today's a good day.

I just wish it hadn't come so soon.


38 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Sometimes time goes by so quickly it leaves you breathless.

Sydneylk said...

I feel bad for parents, it must be an extremely difficult thing for your kids to move out.
I only know it from one side of the situation, maybe one day I'll have to see the other side.
Hopefully not too soon, though.
Nice piece! :)

Shea Goff said...

I've been trying to do this, write what it means to watch them grow and become and be something somewhere outside of a world we constructed for them. Each time I've abandoned the attempt in tears.

You have done such a graceful job here. Thank you for sharing this.

mapstew said...

:¬)

xxx

Peaceful Warrior said...

Clearly your memory is very good at retaining details. I was pleased that you didn't get too melancholy, and fascinated at the tale of times that are a changing..
It's as certain as death and taxes I'm afraid. Change that is....
A particularly well written piece with nice picture prompts.
P.W.

Raymond Alexander Kukkee said...

Beautifully written Sharon, lovely reflective commentary on time passing. You write so well!

"As We Speak" said...

Five Minutes More Than Twenty Years...A perfect title for a perfect post. Thank you for writing a piece that was the perfect little story to read at the end of the day...a lovely dessert!

OpinionsToGo

The Elephant's Child said...

Letting go must be sooo hard to do.

Mrs Smith said...

Beautiful.

Elisabeth said...

The years go by so fast, Sharon, and the transitions we must make along the way can be joyous and/or harrowing. Such beautiful writing here.

Anne said...

Time does go by so quickly. Thank you for reminding me to treasure the present moment.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Another marvelous vignette that left me with a little shiver!

Kudos!

Chantel said...

Such a lovely depiction of a heart wrenching moment.

I have six years left till I know my brood will begin to leave....to think of it makes me tremble a bit.

terlee said...

I thought it was really interesting that your daughter ended up--twenty years later--just five minutes from where she started.

Great post.

Dicky Carter said...

Lovely piece of writing Sharon. I never get bored of reading your work, it's always engaging.

Young at Heart said...

beautiful to read....... in my case it may be me who moves out first!!

Starlight said...

What a sad and beautiful story. It's interesting to see things from “the other perspective“ - I can't imagine what my parents were going through when I “left“ home (I left to university, officially I still live with my parents). Thanks for giving me the insight into parents world.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I wasn't at all sympathetic to my mother when I went off to college, or when I then decided to live hundreds of miles from my family. Then we drove my stepdaughter to college and cried a bit as we left. This is a beautiful rendering of those feelings, including the bit about being a little impatient with the one who's leaving.

Baglady said...

Beautiful piece, Sharon. I love how you balance the past and the present, compare and contrast, and how you pull those little details out (the sausage roll, the railway bridge) that make these stories so real.

Megan is a credit to you and I am sure she'll miss you loads. No matter how old we get it's still our mums we want when we're feeling ill.

Mr London Street said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr London Street said...

I don't read anywhere near as many blog posts as I should, but I read this twice. Everyone has said it already in one form or another, but I couldn't not pitch in and say that I loved this one too. I found it quite sad - that might be because I've stayed at your house you and spent time with you and Philip and Megan, and you have such a lovely easy chemistry as a small family unit. But it's natural (if unfortunate) that things change and phases end. In the meantime, if you ever want a visit from someone impossibly childish, consider me volunteered (until next February, at least).

I love your nonfiction writing. I would love to see you try and get some of it published this year.

Nicole said...

It's shocking to read this, to be so far away still (or so it seems on this end if it) from my still small children growing up and out, and feel so heart-wrenched.

But I do. And I know I should be happy for your Megan to be settling into a new place so near an old and dear one, but I can't get past the momma she's no longer sharing quarters with.

Ugh, Sharon! So well-written that I need to pop upstairs and kiss a few sleeping foreheads.

Cle Reveries said...

Yours is the typical example of history repeating itself, my dear friend, perhaps the most significant, but difficult to pass.
Thanks for telling us your feelings...
Kisses!

Pat said...

Take heart Sharon As one who has no blood daughter remember :
'A daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life.
A son is your son till he takes him a wife.'
Or words to that effect - but very true.

ND Mitchell said...

It must have been hard to write this Sharon. Beautifully described.
David

Bill Dameron said...

It passes in the blink of an eye, but you just don't know it until you blink.

Suman said...

Every single post of yours leaves me sighing and chocked with emotion, every time. You just say it so beautifully.

Susan Cooper said...

Time does fly by OH so very quickly, to quickly. I love this post and how it reminds us to take the time to enjoy everything we can along the way. Time stops for no one. Great Post. :-), Susan Cooper

Aayushi said...

Hey Sharon! I just bumped into your blog now and I must say your page is real good. I like your writing- its simple yet descriptive :)
You are welcome to my blog:
http://ayushi-milestones.blogspot.in/

Constance Walden said...

Great blog. Thanks for sharing. Connie
http://bringingallthingsunderchrist.blogspot.com/

savannah said...

xoxoxoxox, sugar. it all comes round again... lovely piece.

Nessa Roo said...

Oh, Sharon, this brought tears to my eyes, especially since two of my children are packing right now to head for Iowa. I know I can't make them stay. I know they have lives of their own, but goodness, it still tugs at the heart.

Gina Gao said...

This is a really great post. I really like your writing.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

theplantgardener said...

knowing we have given our children the tools to be successful and happy people on their own made it easier to let them go...

one son is married with children 7 hours away and the younger moved to another continent (china) at 20yrs ... now that took faith!

Happy Frog and I said...

A beautiful poignant piece of writing Sharon. I know whenever I visit your blog I won't be disappointed.

Jennifer said...

I can imagine how it must feel to let go and watch kids grow. I know when I moved away to college for freshman year, I was terrified and cried, and on the way back, my parents and brother cried, too.

It's rough. I can only imagine what it will be like when and if my fiance and I move even further away one day.

Cle Reveries said...

(I miss you and your very nice writing)
MANY WISHES AND LOTS OF HAPPYNESS NOT ONLY FOR EASTER BUT FOR ALL!!!

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