Dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Renee Buckley – written by Ella Curtin
Perched on the arm of the chaise-longue, the parlour of my grandmother’s house spreads out before me like a rolling wave, so expansive and never-ending, despite the four walls which confine it. The lace curtains flutter and dance in the faint breeze, just like Wordsworth’s daffodils, and for a moment, the air comes alive with faint snatches of forgotten poetry, lovingly recited here long ago.
The sweet summer breath is heavy with the cat-like purring of a honey bee, the distant strains of melancholy birdsong. Black and white photographs hung on the walls make a disorderly chessboard around me, beams of dazzling sunlight fading their secrets into the oblivion which is the past. Two stately mahogany presses are sentinels on either side of the doorway, guarding their precious cargo against unsavoury intruders. This can only mean one thing- the unruly grandchildren, an umbrella which once covered me, who could never be trusted to be left to their own devices in the dignified elegance of the parlour.
Ghosts of times past wander the room, reminiscing on former glories, independent of the lowly teenager observing. In my mind’s eye I see my my granduncle’s ashen face, his trembling fingers as he struggled with the latch on the door, unprepared for the sight of his wife’s body tossed like a ragdoll in the ditch outside. The room suddenly feels claustrophobic, and the sour taste of heartbreak fills my mouth. I stand, and the Persian carpet melts softly under my feet, the imprint of my shoe like a distant memory, a memory just beyond your grasp, fading to nothing as if it never existed. China saucers above my head glisten like the waning of a forgotten moon, held captive inside their glass-walled prison. The sweet scent of my grandmother’s perfume extends in tendrils around me; invisible, but everywhere at the same time, redolent of frantic dashes to restore the parlour to its former grandeur for an important visitor.
The marble fireplace offers the warmth of a blazing fire during winter-time, carrying the ghostly echoes of song, a faint snatch of applause, a fleeting glimpse of a long-dead singer in the leaping flames. The phantoms of the past which bubble to the surface contradict the peace and tranquillity of the parlour, and I marvel at its enchanting possibilities and secrets, its alluring beauty, its hidden meanings. It is not just a room, it is another world: you cannot claim to have witnessed something magical until you have sat with my grandmother for a while in the parlour.