Daddy, Mummy, Two brothers and me
When we say, it’s good to finally be home, what does that mean?
Is it just rhetoric or does the heavily emotional word, finally, precede several dangerous encounters and unpleasant journey memories, increasing the desire for home. When we are faced with the possibility of never returning home, we imagine what we left behind or possibilities of a new future.
Last month, I visited Purley Avenue in Northwest London for the first time after 28 years.
Purley Avenue had been my home for close to six years. I don’t remember the other places we lived in London but I remember Purley Avenue because it was home in the simplest and most important way that a child could understand. There was Daddy, Mummy, two brothers and me. We neither had a pet Alsatian, fox terrier, or cat, like our English friends but we did have a few goldfish. Their aquarium had coloured pebbles underneath and we took turn to feed the fish from breadcrumbs to some weird looking fish food.
Home, also meant owning a bike, roller-skating every summer, going to the cinema, doing well in school, having so much food at every meal that a lot got wasted and knowing that there would always be tomorrow, with Daddy, Mummy, two brothers and me.
I didn’t know what to expect when I took the bus to Golders Green that day. It was a warm spring and I knew, unlike my other recent England trips where I just couldn’t, that this was the day I would visited the first place I remember as home. The bus stopped at Child’s Hill. That’s the name of the school I went to with my brothers before I joined St. Margaret’s Girls’ School. On disembarking, nothing felt familiar until I took a short walk and finally saw the bridge that we used to cross when going to Child’s Hill Park. I crossed it; wondering if it could still carry my weight after twenty-eight years. I felt I was crossing over the bridge that divided my past and present, my anxieties and my indefinable hope, like I was touching this distinguishable place I always yearned.
Crossing over, I looked down at my younger self holding onto my big brother’s hand as we crossed the road, having snowball fights with the Nigerians next door, going to school with our Iranian neighbours and doing all the things that made home, home. I looked at my housemates from Pitts at St. Margaret’s, as we played netball and usually won, at the gym teacher instructing us on how to do one-handed cartwheels and my younger self looked back at me.
A few yards after the bridge was Dersingham Road. That’s where Child’s Hill School was. It has evolved so much with the automatic gates new signage and smaller playing area. My best friend and I used to run across the playground teasing the Indian girls and taking their tangerines. We used to bully the fat girls and make them cry and we hated school lunches. They always gave us this yucky trifle pudding for dessert and it looked like puke. The years I spent at Child’s Hill had been erased and so I gathered the memories, balled them over and flung them across the gate. They would never leave.
Dersingham Road was exactly the same, with the corner shop and all. I even passed the house where the twins stayed, Dennis and Eric, I passed the garage where our neighbours used to park their car. And then I was at Purley Avenue.
Time, to my disappointment, kept on moving and the flowers continued blossoming under the dry sun but it didn’t matter. This street was my home. I grazed my knee here, learnt how to ride a bike, played Knock down ginger, went for birthday parties and rushed home from dreary blizzards. I played hide and seek and walked to church from here. The houses, of course, appeared much smaller than when we lived here, like monopoly houses but the opulence of the past made them larger than the present. The grass around our front garden was gone. There were no tulips or daffodils, only the spot where my dad used to park his car.
It felt good to be back home.
Beverley Nambozo Nsengiyunva is a Ugandan writer, mother, lover, wife, entrepreneur, blogger.