The old house

Old House
Old House by Nathan (CC)

Last night I dreamed.

I stood outside my childhood home. The door was ajar, so I went straight in. I hadn’t been there in years, so I was happily to see it, exactly as I remembered. The treasure trunk, inlaid with mother of pearl, pinned a Chinese screen against the wall. There was no light in the fireplace, but the sheepskin rug was laid out in front of it, under the arced lampshade that always reminded me of those odd hair dryers women sit under in a salon.

I walked with an invisible friend, hand in hand, delighted. “I used to do all my homework there!” I pointed out the dark wooden dining room table with ratan legs, something my grandparents brought all the way from the Philippines long before I was born.

I pulled my friend from room to room, showing him everything, babbling away. The kitchen, with its odd brown carpet, and the small nook where we ate most of the time (someone hadn’t finished eating, and a plate of food was still on it). The bathroom, with its dated silver wallpaper overlaid with tropical flowers. My old room, that became my brother’s afterwards. I picked out the dusty rose curtains that hung there and he hadn’t bothered changing them. It was (infuriatingly) neat since he took it over. I passed my brother in the hall, but he was on his way out to see his friends.

I took a quick peek into my parent’s room. The bed was made with a cream comforter edged in flowers. I didn’t linger long because Mom wouldn’t want me in there, so I raced downstairs instead. I went right first, to the old rec room. It was smaller than I remembered as a child, and I had to duck my head under the air vent to get in. Our old TV, vcr, sat beside my dad’s record player. There were a few old toys, but I went past and opened the door to the back room that none of us liked much. My parent’s had never even bothered to change the original mustard shag carpet back there.

Out dashed a flash of grey fur, running for freedom. My cat Mina. I laughed. But she was only a kitten still. My dad looked up, from where he was arranging shoes along the back wall, along makeshift shelves of wood and cinder blocks. Dad looked happy, just puttering around and fixing things as usual (no doubt with duct tape). I said hi and walked past out into the back yard.

“I built this with my dad,” I explained to my friend, pointing out the wooden solarium topped with clear corrugated plastic. He’d let me saw and hammer (my brother’s useless for that stuff). I also helped build the stone paved patio a little ways away. The climbing roses weren’t blooming yet, but it was okay because it meant I could see my hamster cemetery. Each plot was lined with white quartz stones I picked up wherever I went.

The basket ball hoop was still up, and the garden plots weren’t planted with anything yet, because it was only spring time. The raspberry bushes were well trimmed and only a few leaves of green peeked out. I hate raspberries now, because we used to fill a gallon bucket every week we went out to collect them. I remembered paper tube sword fights, crushing dinosaurs, transformer wars, and GI Joe battles. “My brother and I also had tea parties,” I nodded solemnly. My invisible friend thought I was odd. I always loved being outside.

Back we went into the house. I threw open the pantry at the bottom of the stairs. “We used to hide our Halloween candy stash in here.” I was disappointed to find it full of sensible things like cans of tuna, and chicken stock. I remembered our biggest haul. Word travelled fast around the neighbourhood when anyone gave away full sized candy bars.

My room was right beside the pantry, and I had two beds instead of one (all our old mattresses that came there to retire). I thought of myself as the ‘princess and the pea’, five mattresses up, but my friends used to call it the boat house because of the dated wood paneled walls. There were bars on the windows, and my imaginary friend thought that was strange. I shrugged, it was the city. My desk still had a pad of paper on it, and a few text books.

I didn’t linger. I went back upstairs to play with Mina. She rolled around like a fiend, nipping and playing, full of energy. Slowly slowly, sadness crept in. My imaginary friend thanked me for sharing my memories.

The house is gone now, so there’s no going back. Mina died a couple years ago. But I recalled every bit of furniture and room with detail. Even my dad looked younger in the dream.

I woke up with a sad sort of melancholy, that comes with the territory when you get older, I suppose. Childhood’s gone (and thank God, because I don’t want to go back there), but there are things I don’t want to forget.

I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The dream was so vivid and I thought I was actually there. It could have been magic. Maybe you can’t truly go back, but I did visit for a little while.

9 Comments to “The old house”

    1. Done. Loved it. 🙂 I feel like I was your imaginary dream friend, and I just got the tour. I also felt like I was simultaneously going through your old house and my own. It’s funny how that works. Just like it’s funny how memory and dream can intertwine, intersect, overlap, blend, diverge.

  1. Oh, I LOVE this. Magic, indeed — I truly believe that our dreams can be little slices of paradise sometimes. I often have dreams of my grandparents’ house, and even though it’s sad to wake up and realize they won’t come true, it’s also comforting to know I could travel back in time for awhile. Glad you had the chance to do the same, and I agree with Kristan, I felt like the imaginary friend!

  2. “Childhood’s gone (and thank God, because I don’t want to go back there), but there are things I don’t want to forget.”

    Exactly. Once you’re safely on the ship, looking back at the shore, you can remember the beautiful landscape without worrying about the orcs and the goblins lurking behind the trees. 🙂

    My old family house is now (in my writing) the house where one of my characters lives. Sometimes I just think of it as his house, forgetting that it was a real place where I really lived.

  3. I’ve had experiences like this revisiting my childhood library. It’s actually pleasant to leave places for decades and uncover them, a spatial equivalent of time capsules. Of course the whole world’s a time capsule and I’m an aging astronaut.

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