Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Real and Imagined

In the life that I used to imagine for myself home was a busy place in which jam boiled on the stove, carrots grew in the garden, honeysuckle meandered round the doorways and children ran barefoot through the hallways.

It was a bright and breezy sort of place full of cosy nooks and ancient books, where roaring fires and golden lamplight reflected off polished wood by night and curtains flapped breezily at open windows by day.

It was a place where sweet-peas tangled from vases in summer and a majestic pine tree cast its glittering glow on spell-bound faces at Christmas.

In the life that I am living, home is nothing like that at all. In this home milk is burnt onto the stove, rubble fills the garden, spiders monopolise the hallways and dust carpets the floors.

In this home chaos is a monster whose neck I cannot leash and order is an ideal that's forever beyond my reach. In this life summer is spent chasing flies against the window panes and Christmas is a fragile promise whose impossible beauty makes me weep.

Some days (when the sun shines) I can forget that there is mildew growing in my bathroom and mice running through my lounge, I can light a candle and I can concentrate on the little corners of my life that fit the templates of my dreams.

But on grey days like today when the sun's snuffed out by cloud and the sky sucks the colour from the world, the ideals of my youth seem remote.

And so on days like today I have to look very hard for the fragments of beauty that lie in forgotten corners of my home, and I have to remember that the dreams we have for tomorrow are gradually, gradually coming true.

I have to cuddle my happy baby who cares as much about bare plaster and broken cupboards as I do about particle physics, and finally I have to get up and clean my bathroom; because action has a power to banish the blues that's beyond the limits of my understanding.


  1. You describe so well the life of a homemaker, and I know you're especially frustrated as your house is in reconstruction. But you already know the secret -- stop thinking and wishing and get something done. Sometimes that is so hard, when you're home with no other adults to join in the work. So, so hard. But dreams do come true, and if you record the beauties that lie ahead as they come, you'll be able to see them when later the mess and chaos again overwhelm you.

  2. With just days to go before I had my first child I looked out of my window - I swear the mildew actually held the glasss in place - lol - of my rented house and saw the lady in the posh house next door, to whom we paid mega bucks of rent, polishing her new double glazing.
    I can remember crying tears of despair that my dream family home was a long way off from materialising.
    Keep busy when the blues come - as you say I don't know how and why but they seem to be banished by busy-ness.
    Much love,

  3. Oh Helen. Just make one tiny corner clean and shiny and love it. It was something I learned from living in Japan - the ability to appreciate the smallest hint of beauty and block out all around it that is not. It's a useful skill when the chaos threatens to overwhelm. Thinking of you.