I went back to the house I grew up in today. Jen had her birthday party in that part of town, and it had been nearly ten years since I saw the place, so I thought I’d see what had happened to it.
I walked down the long straight avenue of Crystal Palace parade, through web of spindly shadows cast by the radio mast. I walked, and then ran, down the hill, past the school my sister went to, and a little before sunset, I found myself standing on the old railway bridge behind our road, the points burning in the dusk, and I looked down on the house, with it’s x-shaped crossbeams under the slates and it’s messy garden backing onto the tracks.
I never cry when I go to visit Mum’s grave. I don’t even really get choked up. I guess graves are just one of those symbols where the meaning attached by our culture and the meaning attached instinctively by my heart don’t line up. Her grave – actually a really lovely spot in a garden under a daphne bush – always seems empty to me.
But I cried tonight, and I think I know why.
It’s because that’s what I’m mourning, not her presence in the ground, but her absence from everywhere else. And most especially, her absence from that old house.
We left it soon after she did, and I haven’t gone back until today, but in a weird way it felt good. Like standing for a few moments in the warmth of the long remembered summer of my childhood.