I’m excited about going down to the Natal Midlands this weekend for reasons other than fun and games. It was my home for 18 odd years afterall.
I grew up in the same house for all that time. The last visit to my old house – and it is old, a Victorian masterpiece built in 1856, originally a girl’s boarding school or so the records say – I was with Ex S. We walked in and I immediately burst into tears. It’s a heritage site, and I always hope some fucker doesn’t move in one day and fill it with Lubners furniture and stick a tiled floor in the passage. Unfortunately, on my parent’s divorce eight years ago my mum sold it, and I was most distraught.
I know that house so well. I flicked the old light switch to my bedroom and just the ‘click’ of it bought back countless [happy] childhood memories. I am so attached to that house; I remember every nook and cranny, every smell, everything like a blueprint in my skull . I still dream about living there very frequently.
It’s beautiful. Tin roof, Victorian fixtures, pressed ceilings, wooden floorboards, fireplaces in every room. An old bath tub on claw legs, huge spaces. I remember every creak, every balustrade over the doors and bay windows.
That house is the very foundation of my growing up.
Going there evokes fixed feelings of sadness, nostalgia and happiness. For even though the house was old and creepy, I was never scared of being there alone as a kid. It always felt safe. It had a substantial garden complete with indigenous forest and an intricately huge plum tree as large as your average Fourways Tuscan box.
At boarding school, my initial homesickness was manifested by pining for my home.
It even has a resident ghost(s). I never saw it until my last night sleeping in that house. It was the night before I went down to UCT. I woke in the middle of the night of thirstiness. As I popped my eyes open, a youngish man with a hairy face and a tie-dye (that’s not a typo – it was indeed tie dye) t-shirt was staring right into my face.
I got the fright of my life.
Not because he looked scary, but there was a man staring directly into my face.
I sat up and saw the high top trainers he was wearing. He was a character out of That 70s Show. He walked to the end of my bed and dissolved.
Literally. Like a Disprin.
I got water, and went back to bed, still unsure of what had just happened.
I told my mum the next day and even she was sceptical. We both moved to Cape Town and that was that.
Seven years later – that’s last year – my mum went down to Natal to see some mates, and stopped in at the house. (We’re those annoying types that knock on the door: “Hello, we used to live here, please can we come in?”) She chatted to the woman for a while, who has apparently opened up a tea place (such a Midlands thing to do), on one side of the house. There are pictures of us and other old inhabitants on the walls.
Then they had this conversation:
Lady That Lives There Now: Did you guys ever feel anything here? You know, like another presence?
Mum: No not really. Always felt very safe.
Lady: Because I have seen two ghosts since we’ve been here.
Mum: Oh really?
Lady: One is an old lady; the other is a young guy.
Mum: Beg pardon?
Lady: Yeah, they’re both very friendly. The guy especially. Wears a tie-dye t-shirt and has lots of facial hair.
A ghost alibi we call it. Did I shit my doondies? No, because it wasn’t an experience out of Amityville Horror.
I am in love with my old house. I’m still uncertain whether I should actually visit it this time around. It evokes hardcore emotions. Perhaps I’ll take the boys just to my school. And show them where I wrote something on the ceiling beam of the dorm I slept in.
(“Peas 4 Brent 4eva”. And “K & Peas smoked first cigarette on 28.10.95”) Bless.