When I was around seven years old, my parents and I lived in this little house at the end of a pretty long road. I remember it feeling like forever by the time we finally got to the shops every Saturday, when we did our weekly grocery shopping at Iceland and Tesco’s, buying jams, bread, various cereals (Cheerio’s, Rice Krispies, Cookie Crisps . . .), milk and cookies.
Occasionally, we bought chocolates.
Back then, I wasn’t a huge fan of chocolates or crisps. I never saw the appeal to them. We’d moved around a lot, from a flat to a house to a bed-and-breakfast room, to another house, to a house, to a flat, ’til we got to this one.
I probably remember it being better than it was. It had an open-plan kitchen, looking into the living room and a pretty big garden. Despite the windows, it was always kind of dark in there. My mum hated the kitchen: she doesn’t like open-plan kitchens, where you can see into it from the living room. To most of the women in my family, it’s embarrassing, particularly when there are other men over (e.g. my dad’s friends).
The room I stayed in was massive. It had large, bay windows, light flooding in, sweeping across every surface–the dust danced in the air when the sunshine beamed through the net curtains. Pretty patterns traced across the stucco ceiling, chased by a fly, endlessly going after it. I saw the fly and I ran out of the room, a tattered copy of Rainbow Magic in my hand. It was about Pearl the Cloud Fairy, I remember that. When I told my mum about the fly, she just laughed and rolled her eyes, moving over on the sofa that had already been in the house when we moved in.
Like all the ones before, this one wasn’t a permanent house. We’d be moving again. I think it was around autumn time when we moved in, and when we were given another house, it was winter.
What I loved the most about the house on that long, winding road, opposite the house that my ex lives in (something I found surprising, laughed at, but I don’t think I ever told him this), was that everything was just so much simpler. I was happy. I was carefree. The magic of my childhood hadn’t yet been yanked away from me. I was happier in this house than all the times when I’d lived with my aunt and cousins. Here, I was free to run around the house without being scared of anyone yelling at me or telling me to be quiet. Here, I could draw wherever I wanted, draw whatever I wanted. Here, I could sing loudly and off-key.
My parents’ bedroom was down the hall, closest to the bathroom, not as big as mine. Their wardrobe was massive. Like the one from Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember hiding in it, when my eldest cousin came over with her kids and we all decided to play hide-and-seek.
It was when I lived in that house that I fell in love with reading. We never had a TV, for years, so reading was the only thing I would end up doing all day, every day, for years to come.
I used to sing and draw, too. I did everything.
Until I stopped.
Once, my dad made friends with this old man, who lived with his wife and some of his children. They invited us over for iftar, which we went to. I don’t remember if it was that day or another day, but Matilda was on TV. It was my first time watching it and I was enthralled by this movie. The chocolate cake scene shocked me and I remember sighing in relief when that boy managed to succeed.
This one day, I filled up this glass mug (a souvenir from Spain, a gift from one of my cousins) with hot water to rinse out my mouth after brushing my teeth (the bathroom’s sink was too weird, the taps too close to the basin and I can’t remember what else mum said she didn’t like about it). So I was filling up the mug, the water was really hot, and bang. The bottom of the mug just fell into the kitchen sink. But it didn’t even smash.
I remember staring down at it, confused. My parents just laughed, then told me it was probably because the water was too hot.
It was funny and so silly, and I loved that about being seven. A year after we’d left my aunt’s house and I felt like I could breathe without being scared of one of my cousins yelling at me or shoving me. Two years before my childhood was torn away from me.
Time seems like it’s rushing past. One blink and you miss it. Everything is changing, constantly evolving, never once giving me the few minutes needed to stop for a moment, to catch up. The impending fear of adulthood is looming over me, like the ghost of Miss Trunchbull, telling me to hurry up and get myself together, figure out what I want to do, where to go, who to be.
Sometimes, I wish I had a time machine just so I can go back to when I was seven, when my only stress was if I would be able to find another copy of Rainbow Magic or Magic Kitten in class. I would love to be able to cherish those moments, those fleeting moments, one more time, so I can hold them closer to my heart, when everything else is piling up around me.