souls and fireworks
Riverside House stood, in all it’s pebble-dashed and whitewashed glory, near the boathouse on the banks of the River Wear in Durham. The three small rooms had no running water and no electricity, but my parents filled the house with so much love that I was proud to be the only child at school who had gas lighting and who could, just like the cowboys, dip his cup into the large urn of water that stood by the kitchen sink.
My evenings were spent in the amber glow of the two gas mantles, that hung on the wall above our fireplace. My mother would read to me , as we sat toasting our feet on the hearth of the open coal fire in the enchanted living-room, with the night-creatures of my young imagination, dancing and flickering in the hot coals by our feet.
On stormy nights, my parents would turn off the gas and as the mantles dimmed through red to darkness, we would sit and watch the forked lightening rip and tear at the sky, as the grove of trees behind the house howled and roared at the disturbing wind.
In the summer, my parents would take me to watch the firework display that ended the Durham Regatta. I enjoyed “Boat Race Day” with it’s contests between the blazer-clad teams of posh-voiced university students, but my anticipation and excitement was reserved for the firework display that ended the festival. The show would begin with WhizzBangs and Catherine Wheels, but the best moment of the display was always saved for the finale, when a mass of rockets would curve upward and then burst like gigantic flowers across the night sky.
When it was her turn to go, my mother’s soul opened and wrapped me in a cloud of everything she had been, before she flashed into the darkness and dissolved into the stars.
When the firework display had ended, we would carefully pick our way back along the darkening river banks toward home, with the distant rumble in our ears, whispering the promise of another show before bed-time.
No trace remains of the old house by the river banks. The tall trees have long gone and the wind laments, as it moans and swirls through the concrete pillars and the empty vaults of the multi-storey car park that now covers the suffocating earth.
Sometimes when I am quiet and open, she returns with the house and the trees and we sit together in the warm glow, just as we did so many years ago.
(firework illustration – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:2006_Fireworks_15.JPG)
Durham Regatta Google Images