“Bed 5. 9am.”
That’s what the label reads, on the solitary 4oz plastic bottle, lying on its side upon the empty counter of our soon to be sold apartment. The scrawl is mine, in a rounded hand that belies the nerves with which I wrote it, about a year ago on the Maternity ward of our local hospital. It had contained some of my milk for our new baby who I was struggling to feed. Of all the bits and pieces left behind, little shards of memories, this one catches my eye.
Husband is stomping back and forth behind me organising boxes and lamps and tools and everything apart from the kitchen sink. His footsteps are drummed rhythms, an underscore to the slew of pictures zipping through my mind like a cheesy montage on a pop video.
A very full year has past since this bottle was put in use and then left hidden at the back of a cupboard somewhere. Our kitchen is cold. None of our homey debris, or the perpetual whiff of garlic in the air from my elixirs at the stove. The corridor is echoey without any pictures on the wall. Even the mouse has moved on. Husband looks at me and asks what ritual is performed to bid a place farewell? There are many to christen arrivals, some too lewd to mention, others ceremonial, foody – parties, cards, home warming gifts. But leaving? Should I burn a bushel of sage? Sing a Shamanic doo-dah?
Nothing like the bare bones of a place to remind you that a home is not bricks. Stripped of its people and their energy, very little remains. I remind myself of this as we trawl through our belongings clogging up every corner of my parent’s house, where we camp out in elegance for the foreseeable future. We begin the nth trawl and cull. I finger through every box, stopping to read the letters my father sent me at university, the hilarious 7 page stories my then college boyfriend sent me from his travels through India, describing wild adventures in detail, his hand revealing someone tampering with any number of illegal substances. He’s now a triathlete married to a gorgeous yogi with a beautiful baby to match; argument for hedonistic travel at a young age.
Back on the streets, I trek to regular voice sessions, gradually ingratiating myself into a tight knit group of British voice actors. Seeing the same faces several times a week is the closest I will ever get to feeling what it must have been like to work in repertory theatre back in the day. Once upon a time, graduates would head to regional theatres for several years, and perform with the same twenty or so other colleagues.
Boy, meanwhile, is headlong into writing his first book of “descriptions” and recovering from the excitement of Halloween which we spent trawling the truly haunted streets of 18th century Hampstead. Stopping for a guiness half way round the houses in an old pub, obviously, to keep up our strength.
As I type, fireworks crack in the black sky, some in remembrance of our 17th century wannabe terrorist, Guy Fawlkes, others for Diwali, the festival of light. Odd sky-partners perhaps? Very London. Boy is reading on the sofa, Chimp has acquiesced to sleep (he spends 75% of his days kicking a ball around like Rooney and Beckham’s love child) and Husband is reading the NY Times for his stateside fix. Stars are out somewhere beyond those clouds. Bed beckons for Mama. And dreams of homes and boxes and welcomes and farewells….