Choosing to revisit the past – invoking half-forgotten memories of an unhappy time in my life, long long ago – feels a bit odd, but yesterday it was a choice I made anyway. Part defiance at myself for not usually going there, and part cautious curiosity at testing the waters to see how it feels now, looking back at an old disjointed story from a new perspective.
It all came about quite innocently, quite naturally, as part of an everyday conversation with my husband, who had been chatting earlier with a colleaugue at work. They had been discussing their respective commutes to work – we live an easy 10-minute walk from the supermarket where my husband works. But apparently his colleague has a long daily drive from the back of beyond, and when my husband told me the name I said – oh, I know where that is, I used to live there!
So I opened my laptop and looked it up the area on Google maps, showed my husband just how far his colleague comes to work evey day. And then on impulse I chose street view, clicked onto the actual farm cottage I used to live in, the house we lived in when my youngest daughter was born 35 years ago, and there it was. It felt odd to see it after all this time, but not upsetting.
I was going to write – there it was, just as I remembered it – but the point is I don’t really remember it that much. I had an unhappy first marriage to the father of my three children, and a lot of my memories from that time are buried in a kind of fog of fuzzy forgetfulness. I don’t talk about them not because they are secret, but because I just don’t go there, out of habit.
But yesterday I chose to open that difficult door inside my mind, and it was OK. So using Google maps I showed my husband all the houses I had lived in during that difficult period of my life, four homes in seven years with three young children and a very old-fashioned traditional-style marriage that, in retrospect, had clearly been doomed to failure from the start.
I found I easily pointed out which rooms lay behind each window, exactly where each door opened into, explained which things looked different in each building all those years ago. Memories came back, and surprisingly I handled them without pain, without feeling the need to protect myself from that past any more. What I feel most now is a lingering sadness about it all, and that feels about right…