Wednesday, 25 February 2009

'That same small town in each of us...'

Allow me the Don Henley song quotation. Tis a favourite of mine - The End of the Innocence. Makes me think of virginities lost, and first loves in small hick towns that we itch to escape. You see coming home is always a bitter sweet experience for me. Full of expectation, a need for things to be 'right,' to have bonding moments with my family who I see so rarely, for me to feel connected to the place that once was home 18 odd years ago. After the hell of last week it is blissful to be removed from my war zone and to be surrounded by people pleased to see me. To be a 2 minute walk from the sea, to have cups of tea brandished at me every 5 minutes, to have Sproglet play with his cousins and to lie in every day - is so damn comforting. Everything is softer: the water, the bed sheets, the rolling views, the lilting accents.

I regress to my 17 year old self. Sometimes I reach down, expecting to pick up my huge dusty art file that I was forever lugging around with me in A level years. I drive by my old school and itch to walk up the hill, stare up at my first love's boarding school dorm room window, gossip in the 6th form centre, loosen my thin school tie. I think I yearn to be that girl again sometimes - to be so full of hope and potential. To still feel that life's possibilities are limitless. The summer of '90 - filled with the angst and ecstasy that came with my all encompassing first love.

When I'm home I miss eating cake and chain smoking in the Mad Hatter coffee house; drinking cheap cider in Botanic gardens; playing strip frisbee instead of studying for imminent exams; kissing in the smoky Empire pub as a band blasts out dodgy covers; cycling to the Video Store for the latest release. I want to hide up in my treasured bedroom in my Mum's ex-boyfriend's house - where I used to live at weekends. My sanctuary. I want to do my make-up in the mirror he built for me that was surrounded by circus lights. Secretly smoke out the window listening to the neighbourhood kids squabble as the summer sun goes down. Watch 'Purple Rain' over and over again on my beat up old VHS machine or play Prince's 'Sign of the Times' album to death. Help my would-be step sister to hide booze in the local woods. Cycle to a friend's house and wander barefoot in the park. But those times are long gone. Mum's ex sold my sanctuary 13 years ago. The last time I went there I took down my Prince posters and a collage on my wardrobe door that I had spent 4 years building and shed tears knowing that life was about to move on.

I think of the time my friend Eleanor bumped into me and first love boy standing kissing goodbye in the sunshine on an exceptionally hot day at the gates to Botanic Gardens. From a distance she hadn't recognised me - she just thought that the couple kissing looked 'the picture of love.' I knew even at the time that it was special - a time I'd never recreate again. A moment that I wanted to capture forever - so I scribbled it all down furiously in diary - I still have it.

So nostalgia hits me from every angle. Today I drove Sproglet to Ardglass - a tiny little fishing village by the sea - to see a good friend's parents. They have known me since I was 15 and are the most hospitable brilliant people. They lost their eldest daughter 9 years ago - which has understandably changed them - this 'unasked for ' life they now live. They showed me the almost finished house they have built that looks straight out onto a golfcourse that rolls down to the sea. It is amazing. Full of space and light, with floor to ceiling windows to let in this serene view. I ate lunch with my friend's Dad at a tiny little cafe nearby that served up the best food I've eaten all week. Then we had tea in the odd little conservatory, that is reached through their bedroom in the quirky cottage style house they are renting while their dream home is finished. We sat in rocking chairs, looking out at the golfers putting below,the sea that lay beyond and a cloudless blue sky. We talked about marriages and grief and love and life and let the sun warm our faces. Sproglet played with shells and binoculars and curled into my arms. I felt utterly peaceful. I didn't want to ever leave.

We shared big hugs goodbye and life felt that little bit brighter - that marriage at any age can be testing - that we never know what is around the corner for us, that there is no right or wrong in relationships. The 17 year old was quiet - I didn't yearn for the past. For the briefest of times I was happy in the here and now.

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