Going Back

I hesitate at the gate.  Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. It was all exactly the same but completely different. Even the name of the house. Craven Lodge was now the Brahma Sagar, and for a moment I thought I was at the wrong house. But no, this was it. My childhood. It was here. Right here at this very spot, where I had waited for the school bus over four decades ago.  The gate hadn’t been repaired, it still creaked in an eerie sing-song way as he pushed it open. I remembered teasing my sister about the ghost of a young boy swinging on the gate, one night as we returned from a movie. She had screamed and run up the drive into the house, where my mother stood waiting to tell me off. I looked up the drive now, expecting a 14-yr old gangly girl with braces and thick glasses, running in. But no parents, no siblings, no past in sight.  He pulled me along, tugging at my hand as if I were a labrador on a lead reluctant to walk any further. ‘What’s wrong? Aren’t you excited?’ I had been. Up until 5 minutes ago. So excited. This was my first trip into the past, and we had planned it all so meticulously for months now. Sitting in Glasgow, I had been almost feverish with the anticipation of visiting this house. But my boots now seemed to have welded themselves to the ground, and a large lump of nameless emotion had lodged itself in my throat.  ‘Come on,’ he repeated. ‘I’ve heard so much about your precious Craven Lodge, for thirty-five years now. From all of you. What’s wrong now?’ 

How could he possibly understand? He who was born and raised in the same small town where he went to university. When people asked him where he was from, he knew what to say.  Whereas I floundered at that question, never having lived anywhere for more than a year or two. Even today, as I try to root myself into our ‘forever home,’ I am aware of the youth of these roots. The only thing I know about permanence, is how impermanent it is. Which possibly explained my reluctance to go any further up the drive. What if it slapped me on my face?  This house was the only one embedded in my heart. Where my childhood was replaced by emerging young adulthood. Where I realised, I was a girl, and replaced my riding breaches with the occasional skirt. Where I began to grow my nails and hair and stole my mother’s lipsticks. Where boys replaced horses. Up ahead was the stone at the bottom of the lawn, overlooking the golf course and the gymkhana club. Where I sat and stared at my biology notes, whilst looking out for the boy on the motorbike who rode up the hill.  The tug at my arm again, bringing me back to the moment, and I allowed myself to be dragged up the drive. A curious trio, man, woman, and her seventeen-year-old self.  Suddenly it was there. Rambling cottage in enchanting disrepair. He watched me watch my younger self run up. I started to follow, breathe in, and swallow the past. Then reach up to the doorbell at last.