Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here's to you Mrs Springer


We have been renovating this suburban roomy four-bedroom house for conversion into office space (hence my lack of blogging). The house was built in 1955 and is on a rectangular quarter-acre block. It is surrounded by a towering jacaranda tree in whose breast sits a crepe myrtle, shading the sunny backyard. Inside the house has 10 foot ceilings, decorative cornices, original stackable wooden window frames and, now that the smelly carpet has long gone, loads of character.

On Monday, as I was painting the scratched and dented back door frame I contemplated how many children had passed through this door, how many times cricket bats, washing baskets and soccer boots had hit into it and left their mark. Brush stroke after brush stroke (try and say that out loud, I dare you) my thoughts were immersed in an image of a mother standing at the back verandah calling out to her children to come inside for their baths and dinner. Looking up to refresh my paint brush I saw a shadow standing at the front door (which is directly visible from the back door and about 15 metres away). The shadow was of a person hunched over their walking stick, the late afternoon light illuminating their outline. I could not help but walk toward the shadow. As I got nearer I realised it was an elderly lady. She introduced herself as Mrs Springer.

After an old neighbour had informed Mrs Springer that 'her house' looked like it was going to be demolished, she realised she had to come and have one last look at the place that was home to her for 50 years. Her husband, who built it, passed away 16 years ago and her six children grew up here until they left home.

If only I could express to you her absolute delight when she realised that we were not knocking it down but indeed fixing what was broken and keeping as much of its original features as possible. She told me why the windows were situated as they were, how many times they had extended the house and where her family had sat for dinner, where her reading nook was and where quiet evenings in front of the television were spent. This was achingly nostalgic.

I immediately thought of my family and how quickly these days are passing, rushing to get out of the house in time for school and activities, glancing at the clock, planning today, tomorrow and days and weeks ahead. Yet, how often do I stop and think that this day will never come again. My children, as they are today, me, as I am, my husband as he is now, all will eventually be forgotten, wiped away forever. And there is not a damn thing I can do to slow life down. One day all that we have built will be demolished, and not just the bricks and mortar.

But thoughts have to turn to the positive as the inevitable is just that.

What I can do is to continue to live, to plan, to prepare but also to remember to absorb as much of whatever situation I am in and to realise that what I have is not forever, but for now. I must accept that.
I invited Mrs Springer to come to the house, her house, any time she wished.
Please note that Mrs Springer is a modified version of her name to protect her privacy.

13 comments:

Suko said...

What a lovely post, Mervat! By writing this, you've captured time, a beautiful moment of reflection.

The Writing Instinct said...

Suko: thank you. It can be difficult to reflect sometimes can't it?

Natalie said...

Such a lovely post indeed. :)

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

There are tears in my eyes as I write this. Your post is beautiful and shows what a thoughtful person you are.
Like you I have four fast-growing children. My eldest is 19 this year and about to leave for university. A lot of my days are spent tidying up the mess, the laundry, the detritus of family life that means annoyance to me now but when I am Mrs Springer's age they will be treasured thoughts.

Shadowthorne @ Ramzu Zahini said...

An old building does have a history, either we love it or hate it. Memories were etched into the walls and as part of the scenery, buildings made the moments intimate and unique.

My secondary school was moved to the capital city years ago and the old building was turned into a college.

It was a heartbreak for the school alumni. And we drifted in the wind after that :(

septembermom said...

A truly lovely post Mervat. I think it's important to grab those moments of reflection and connection. You're so right about how fast times goes by. I thank you for this reminder to appreciate the here and now with my kids. Hope all is well!

see you there! said...

Beautifully written. Can you imagine the pleasure you gave to Mrs Springer? We make connections with people in the most surprising ways.

Darla

More than Just a Mother said...

This is beautiful; both the sentiment and the writing. It was a pleasure to read and I look forward to browsing through your site.

Kayleigh said...

Darling friend...this was such a lovely post! I too had tears in my eyes. You really captured how a house becomes more than just the sum of its parts. I could practically see Mrs. Springer's happy face when she found out her house was going to continue on and have a new life. If she comes back you should ask if she has any old photos you could have copies of -- they would be delightful framed on a wall there somewhere. We did that in the house I grew up in.

You are sooo very astute, we need to hold on to all the precious moments because each one will never come again. You're such a loving mother, it always touches my heart :)

Beautifully written, beautifully expressed!

Loida of the 2L3B's said...

hi mervat,
i thought the shadow you had mentioned refers to a house ghost.. (sorry..) so i continued reading and then i realized how really sweet and soft-hearted you are..

nice, cozy looking house you got there..

Sucharita Sarkar said...

i also thought it was a ghost.

but then truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

Susu Paris Chic said...

Leesa is a very good fiend of mine. She is so sweet! I'd absolutely love to join you guys. The only thing is that you said "in the end of May". I'm leaving for the U.S. on May 15 and coming back on June 6. I hope we won't miss each other! Keep me posted on your dates, okay!

About me and dance, yep, I used to dance, quite a bit. I've had a bit of a break, but am thinking about taking it up again.

The Writing Instinct said...

Natalie: So lovely to hear from you Nat; I miss you.

The Small Fabric Of My Life: your words are very kind. It is sometimes very hard to blurr the fine focus of the rigours of daily life and to just sit back and live the moment. Mine too will be treasured memories. :)

Shadowthorne @ Ramzu Zahini: I too believe that place is just as important, if not more important, than the event sometimes. It is especially sad when a building that was a part of our lives for so long to no longer exist.

septembermom: Thank you :). I should take a little of my own advice, especially now, even if housework has fallen behind.

see you there! : Thank you too Darla :) Mrs Springer was really quite moved and nodded her head and thanked us over and over again. I will not forget this lady for a long time.

More than Just a Mother: Welcome and thank you for your kind words.

Kayleigh: My dear it is so good to 'see' you! I absolutely love your idea of a picture of the original house. I really hopes she comes back to see the final result just so I can ask her for this. Your kind words to me mean so very much. Thank you again my dear friend xx.

Loida of the 2L3B's: Thank you so much. The house is actually very sunny, inviting and cosy. I have missed you x

Sucharita Sarkar: It was like almost seeing a ghost, I kid you not.

Susu Paris Chic: I am afraid I will miss you. There is always next time. I wish you a safe trip to the US. I Can't wait to meet Leesa though.

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