A photograph of a new mum, squinting into the sun, shadows hiding her face, shrouded. Standing beside her, stationed on either side, a girl and a boy, aged 6 and 5.
They are all in front of a Hills Hoist.
Nappies flap, flannel sails fluttering over their heads, catching the November wind. The new baby’s head is bent into his mother’s shoulder.
It has been thirty seven years since our home had been sold. Here I was, standing outside it on a Sunday, taking photographs of my bedroom window from the park next door.
‘That’s quite a view,’ a man said, fresh from tennis at the club.
‘I used to live there,’ I said. Or did I say ‘I used to live here’ or ‘I grew up here’: is that what I said?
‘You should go and knock on the door, and ask to go in,’ he prodded, but as he got in his car, I thought, nah, I wouldn’t.
Gum tree branches moving on the gravel, the sight of the owner moving in the garden.
‘I used to live here.’ Yes, I said it. ‘I grew up here.’
He watched me from across the property boundary. He owned it now. I glanced up at my bedroom window.
’Would you like to come in and see it?’ he said, and my legs went weak as I crossed the property line.
We walked around the side path, where the wisteria used to bloom. ‘The wisteria…’ I said.
’Yes, yes’ he encouraged me, ‘it still comes.’
‘Each October…’ I’m speaking out loud.
We pass the kitchen window. The garden is planted in glossy garden beds, the lawns gone, but there it is.
The Hills Hoist.
‘Is this the same one that was there?’ I ask.
My hand reaches out for the handle. Hold onto it. Can I touch it? I can’t touch it. I say out loud:
‘I might have to take a photo of that.’ But, in fact, I don’t. I’m in awe.
I’m misplaced and reinstated and out of place and recreated. Head spinning like the flannel sails, woolly and muddled, I stumble deeper into the garden. Later, I regret that I didn’t capture the metal marker in a photo.
But I did get to see my old bedroom, bathed in dreamy, creamy light. The wooden roof, boat-like, just under the sky, tossed atop my old house, with the same old view from my bedroom window, my initial scratched into the top right window pane: ‘A.’
Note for overseas readers: a Hills Hoist is a metal rotary clothesline.
© Anna Sublet