When I was a student in the 1960’s I started collecting nursery rhymes and poetry which I could use once I started teaching. I built up quite a collection in a folder. I also got into the habit of cutting poems out of the daily newspaper if they appealed to me. One poem impressed me so much I have treasured it for the last 50 years. I still have the original cutting. Brown with age, I’ve now laminated it so that it doesn’t get damaged. It is called Miss Margaret’s New House and it chimed with me really strongly.
As regular readers of my blog will know, my much loved mum died in 2012. She lived just a couple of doors away from me, which was really handy when I was caring for her. But once she had died, the house being so close was a constant source of sadness which I could not escape.
The house was empty and forlorn for months but now new people have bought the house to ‘do up’ and live in. It seems to me that there will be nothing left of the original house soon. It now has a huge extension on the back, the lovely hardwood window frames have been replaced with white plastic and the leaded lights are gone. The kitchen has been ripped out and a new one built in the extension. The wall between the bathroom and toilet has been knocked through and all the fittings have been replaced. The climbing roses have been cut down and the rambling hedgerow tamed and trimmed. All the carpets are gone and modern wooden flooring installed and the walls have all be painted in neutral tones.
I’m sure it will all be lovely by the time they move in, but no longer will it be ‘my mum’s house’. This is a blessing in a way as I will no longer feel those pangs of sadness as I pass by on my walks with the dog or my grandson. Every trace of my mum’s taste and personality has gone from the house now, along with her fixtures and fittings, into the skip.
Her style was plain and simple. She loved the soft pink on the walls, pale green on the floors ~ always Wilton, always 80/20 wool. She loved roses in the garden, flowers in the house, and dark oak Ercol furniture. She loved soft cushions and silver ornaments. Her door, like her heart, was always open to visitors, especially her family. She never forgot a birthday and was generous to a fault. Not a day goes by when I don’t miss her.
Now to get back to the poem! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
She never liked The Firs. She said
‘Give me simplicity.
Pretentious roofs and leaded panes…
Lord, how they sicken me!
I’ll have an honest house one day.
Clean-shaped outside and in.
Where need shall take its dues, and oust
The merely finikin.
A downright house, a compact house;
A small house – I am small;
The lone pea in its vasty pod
Is not my role at all.
Nor yet for me pert painted doors,
Flame yellow, scarlet bright;
A low house with white window sills,
And trees to left and right.
A quiet house, a peaceful house…
Cool in the August heat,
But snug and safe when parching winds
Drive brown leaves down the street…
This will I have’, she said and let
It cost me what it may
I shall not grudge that dwelling’s price…
She moved in yesterday.
It took the sum of all she had,
But well content she seemed;
She has them all-the sheltering trees,
The quiet that she dreamed;
The low pitched roof, the straight bare walls-
All hers, and perfect, save
For the white window sills. There are
No windows in a grave.
By Ana Jackson
This is a lovely post. The connection between the poem and your Mum’s house is poignant, and makes me think about how temporary, and yet lasting our experience of home can be.
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