The house that I grew up in was odd in ways that I’ve only begun to appreciate fully, in recent years. But I’m sure it was similar to yours, in some ways.
I lived in a middle-class suburb of Glasgow, the daughter of two hard-working, infuriating, loving and confusing doctors, and sister to two much older, much more masculine, teasing, but loving brothers.
When my parents bought the house (before I existed) it was a manse, which is the name given to a house in which a church minister lives, and when my parents arrived, the rooms were painted in alarmingly bright and unique colours. The paint was donated by members of the congregation and judging by the colours, the congregation were either quite colourful people, or they enjoyed a good joke. I imagine an elderly lady, after emptying her garage of unwanted items, having a right good giggle at the minister who graciously and humbly accepts a tin of Slime Green.
There are two things that spring into my mind when I think of our house. Firstly, slugs. The thought of these black, sleek little splodges sends a shiver through me, even today. Slugs are not uncommon visitors to British houses. I’m not sure why. I think they like to seek refuge somewhere warm and dry when it’s raining. They used to use the back-door of our house to sneak up on me.
The back-door of our house is a big wooden structure, painted white and covered with locks and bolts, which leads me to think that the minister who lived in the house before we did might have been more safety conscious than my parents, which would be an impressive feat. Believe me. The back-door opens into The Scullery, which sounds exciting, but is really an extension of the kitchen, home to a washing machine and ironing board.
I hate slugs. I just hate them. I know I shouldn’t hate little defenseless creatures who mean me no harm, but I just hate them, alright? One minute you are sitting on The Scullery floor, in your overalls, painting a picture of a dog, and the next minute, the scullery is being invaded by a procession of black demons. You never hear them coming. One minute your back door is a familiar white colour, and the next minute it’s gone all Dalmatian on you, and you are running around the house screaming for someone to get these tentacled aliens removed from the premises.
Stairs, like slugs, are not uncommon features in British homes and, I presume, in homes across the world. However, it may not have occurred to you that stairs can be used as a means by which to communicate emotions. Members of our family often communicated using the stairs. My house was a quiet one, despite its many occupants, and emotions were rarely expressed. This may have something to do with being Scottish, British, Repressed, or Odd. I don’t know. However, emotions have to come out somewhere, and they often found voice via the way in which one climbed or descended the stairs.
For example, if someone was feeling quite merry, you might hear the sound of the Stair Skip echo around the house. The Stair Skip was the merry sound of someone having a jolly nice time to themselves, bounding down the stairs, in a nice bad-um, bad-um, bad-um rhythm. This behaviour was usually exhibited by people who had: 1) completed a house-hold task successfully 2) realised that it was a Saturday, or 3) won a prestigious award.
While the Stair Skip was music to everyone’s ears, the Stair Thump was a source of anxiety, as it suggested that there was danger afoot. The stair thump was a particular favourite of my mother. (I hope she never reads this.). You might be lying in bed having a Sunday morning lie-in when you feel it. A tremor. The water in the cup beside you starts rippling in time to the THUMP-THUMP-THUMP of the staircase. As the sound gets louder and closer, the thump of the stairs becomes the thump of your heart. Then the thumps are on your door. And finally, the cry “IT’S-HALF-PAST-12!”. Never has anyone been so incredulous about the time.
So there it is
So there it is. A story about the house that I grew up in has become a story about slugs and stairs, which has become a story about unwelcome house guests and family communication. There are other things about my house that I could tell you about, but I think that’s enough excitement for one day.
I will leave you with the thought, that if I were transported back in time to my childhood days, I would skip merrily down the stairs to express my joy at completing this piece of writing.
What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us HOME!