Saturday, August 6, 2011

The squeaky stair

I'm not sure when the second from bottom stair in my parents house started to creak, but it has done so for as long as I can remember. My mum and dad purchased our family home brand new, in 1973. At the time the little estate was at the very edge of the small and rather shabby market town, built on the first of many farmer's fields sold to developers. They still live there; its now much farther from the edge of the town, and the town itself is now an attractive local destination filled with gastro pubs and designer shops. The interior of the house is much tidier and more stylish too, and the garden a veritable magazine piece. The stair still creaks though.

My mum's footfall on that step, bouncing up and down those stairs, epitomizes home to me. I have lain in bed, upstairs, waiting to be kissed goodnight, for a glass of water, to be roused for the school bus, illicitly with a boyfriend or just innocently drifting off to sleep alone, and that creak has meant mum or dad were on their way up or down. I jumped over that creaky step if I came home late, trying to be quiet, though I'm sure mum was still awake, she never slept until we were all safely home.

Our first port of call on our recent holiday to the UK was mum and dad's house. Warmly welcomed, the children were cool. They don't know their grandparents well, how could they really with the miles that separate us? Geekygirl especially can tell how much I want her to like them, and being her contrary self decides that therefore she won't. I was sad that they didn't show their adorable selves very often, but instead met my parents kind efforts with a sullen, grudgy compliance. Still, we explored my childhood haunts and many wonderful attractions that didn't exist when I was a child, and they had a wonderful time. England has become so child friendly, even child centric, it seems, since I left. Family farms and adventure playgrounds galore.

The wall next to the staircase in my parents house is a family gallery. Arty shots of me and my siblings, wedding snaps, and precious portraits of long passed family members, some perhaps the only photos ever taken of them, and certainly wearing the only shoes they owned, adorn the walls. Geekygirl, her ascent halted by the disconcerting squeak of the stair, stopped to look at them and was fascinated by a sepia picture of two curly haired toddler girls and a baby boy. She was incredulous when informed that one of the pretty little girls was Grandma. It seemed almost impossible to her that Grandma used to be a little girl. That I used to be one too, a skinny gap toothed creature in the gallery, she can barely grasp. This sense of continuity, this home with its trail of family, is one of the reasons I wish we could bring the kids 'home' more frequently.

That, and to preserve the lovely English accent both kids seem to have adopted during the trip.