Having dropped my mum off at Gatwick for her annual sunshine holiday, I decided to go back to her house to tidy and lock up. The sun was shining and although deceptively fresh, I was drawn to go into the back garden. The house was unusually silent as I went out and sat on the white-painted bench, looking out across mums well tended lawn. Sitting alone, a series of memories flooded into my mind making me feel quite emotional.
The place where I sat was where my dad (now passed) put the stabilisers on my first bicycle and encouraged me to cycle with confidence. Where my sister and I as young children played badminton over the washing line, hitting shuttlecocks over the neighbours fence. Memories of playing with my first dog Bobby, who used to sit watching us hungrily whilst the family ate dinner on the patio. Sally the cat, dads constant companion stretched out on the lawn. The rickety wooden shed at the back, full of tools and interesting artifacts. It was always an undiscovered treasure trove, guarded by cobwebs. I hate spiders even to this day. From the bench I could see the length of the garden with its collection of foliage and blossoms, a legacy of my late father, which mum had diligently and tirelessly tended since his demise.
I remember when we moved into the house in 1973 from our top floor maisonette in a housing estate in Battersea. I was transfixed by the garden which was wild and overgrown, with the sun streaming in between low hung branches full of cooking apples. It was like finding Heaven. I remember thinking I was in the countryside, running ecstatically through the long grass and digging around in the soil finding hidden treasures; red, oval shaped ‘stones’, which intrigued me greatly. I stored them in a jam jar and would take them out regularly to play with. One day the jam jar disappeared but nobody knew where it had gone. I was devastated for 5 minutes, before the excitement of exploring my Nania induced immediate amnesia. It was years later when I realised my treasures were fly pupae.
I stayed for a while, just watching, listening and remembering. Before long, it was time to lock up and make my way home. As I stood up I thought of the last time I had seen my dad, before the massive stroke which prevented him from ever coming home again. He had been working in the garden, planting flowers on a day similar to this; happily doing what he loved.
As I sat reminiscing, I realised so many of my formative and treasured memories arose from growing up with the benefit of a back garden. It struck me that my life and the woman I have become may have been very different without it.
I left my family home to return to my 3rd floor inner city flat, feeling immense gratitude for that gift and the memories I carry from it.