Thursday, February 2, 2017


Last night - or, rather, in the early hours of the morning, once I fell back asleep after my customary 4am waking for asthma medication and bladder evacuation - I dreamed extremely vividly of my parents' house, the house I grew up in.

This is not the first time I have had such a dream, in the 18 months since they sold the property and moved first to a temporary flat and later their pleasant new unit in a complex of eight. In fact, although the details vary, you could say it's become a recurring dream, or at least a recurring theme, in my almost-lucid, vivid, emotionally fraught early morning REM cycles.

In these dreams, the story usually goes something like this:
- For some reason, we still have keys to my parents' old house and the keys still work.
- The property is derelict, left entirely abandoned by its now owners. (This part is sort of true - the house has indeed sat vacant for a year and a half, garden overgrown, my Dad's beloved roses choking to death, as the investor who bought it negotiates their next option).
- For some reason that is never clear, we (that is, my husband, my daughters, my brother, my sister in law and me) decide that we need or want to go and stay in the house.
- We let ourselves in, set up camp in the various rooms, and live like squatters, parking our cars out of sight in what used to be the old vet surgery carpark at the back. Nothing works in the house so we live without cooking, light or washing / toilet facilities, but for some reason, this doesn't seem important in the dream.
- We hear the sounds of people coming to the door and we panic, try to get out. Sometimes this involves us running out the back door, sometimes, because it is, after all, a dream world, we all fly out of the back windows and into the cloudy sky.
- One person gets left behind (not always the same person) and I go back for them.
- When I go back, the house is full of angry strangers who are trying to hurt us but don't succeed. I end up yelling something like "This is MY HOUSE!"or "It doesn't belong to YOU!"at them.

It's interesting, and probably says something profoundly weird about my psyche. I've never really gone in for dream analysis, but I confess I'd be curious to know what an analyst made of this. '

In my conscious mind, I wasn't excessively attached to my parents' home. Yes, I grew up there - we moved in when I was 2, so I don't remember living anywhere else - but I left, and was keen to leave, at 21, moving into a share house first and later heading to other side of the city when I married. Our family home now, where I live with my husband and three girls, has been my home for almost 14 years, and most of the key milestones of my life have happened here. (And yes, I do feel attachment to my current home, which was underlined strongly when we considered moving a while back - I had both a practical and psychological reluctance to do so).

I didn't even particularly like the house I grew up in as a house. It was a stolid, not very pretty, red brick bungalow on a major highway - it was always dusty and polluted air outside, and noisy all night, and I vowed I'd never again live on a main road (I never have!) My Dad grew a lovely garden and I did like that, but the house itself was just ... the house, the place we lived, the place we ate and talked and washed and slept and studied and read and laughed and cried.

Oh yes. And the place my brother lived the entire 8 years of his short life. All the walls were embedded with him, and the memories of him. It was the place I brought my own babies to, when I needed my Mum and her loving touch. It was the place that always looked the same and smelled like roast dinners and tea and clean laundry. It was the place with cool spots and warm spots and the story of my coming of age written in the bookshelves and the carpets, the curtains and the big ceramic bathtub.

Maybe I'm not really grieving the house at all.

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