Just sometimes a stray word or reminder can open a window on a chapter that we have forgotten.
In this case it was a Facebook status update, reference to the funeral of a prominent rose grower in a small town in Norfolk, England.
Still the name stirred something within me. Every day for four years or however long it was, I had driven past the sign for the nurseries. Then I had been gone, seldom to return. Life had moved on to other vistas.
Roses (Leonid Dzhepko)
Almost as soon as we first moved to Attleborough, I wanted to leave. I remember a New Year's Eve spent in the nondescript pub on the High Street, looking out at the yellow lights, wishing I was was somewhere else. I remember another cold morning waiting for an airport bus to take me away to Tel Aviv.
In hindsight the church was impressive with its squat tower and its crooked grave stones. But I preferred Wymondham up the road with its partially ruined abbey towers, gaunt against the wide open Norfolk skies and the small, quaint pub in the shadow of the abbey.
We lived a life that was unremarkable. The house was identikit but pleasant. The sofa was too large and expensive. We made the home borderline Bohemian with touches from Habitat and Terracotta and yellow paint. Inevitably we were rearranging flowers while Rome simmered around us. The human spirit can achieve great things but the only certainty is disintegration; of certainty and love and the human frame.
In the face of a disintegration that would shatter us as surely as the gaunt towers of Wymondham Abbey but set the stage for rebuilding, we organized barbecues. People even came and drank too much and ended up crashed out in beds. Still the better parties were in the older houses as if the characters of the place and the spirits of revelers past, added to the fun. Our construct was flimsy.
Wymondham Abbey (Evelyn Simak)
In the end after the discordance, there was silence. It was just me alone in the house with the muted green carpets. I still remember the man with the truck who decided to buy it, Moroccan color scheme and all. He worked for the rose grower. And I drove away from that cul-de-sac that could be anywhere U.K. and never looked back. The oversized sofa looked ridiculous in my rented apartment. Eventually someone took it away for less than 10 percent of the purchase price.
Still there are times when the small town comes back to me in my dreams. I remember the two pubs at the end of road, coaching inns from time gone by. I remember how the thatched roof of one made me think of a rural idyll I never quite realized. I think of the bike rides down small lanes thick with wildflowers.
Two years ago I was back in Norwich for a night out with friends. As I drove back to London, nursing a hangover I saw the sign to Attleborough. I hesitated and finally took the road half remembered. It was strange how the old familiarity set in as I remembered each turn to take. Yet here and there I passed something different.
I drove into the cul-de-sac and looked at the house. The garage door was now white and there were neat pots outside holding flowers with pale edges. It was a silent Sunday morning. Fog swirled the air and I could hear a distant church bell across the fields.
Still there was nothing for me here. I got back in the car and took the road back, passing the sign for the rose grower who had always been there, who had probably tended his nursery each day of the 10 years I had been there. Until now.