“October,” he said. “I’ll need the house back for my daughter.” My landlord sounded vaguely apologetic but businesslike on the phone. I had been his tenant for nearly seven years, moving in a hurry to escape with my daughters from a toxic relationship to find peaceful refuge in this three-up-two-down East London terrace.
The house, Number 37, hosted the last of My Girls’ teenage years, bringing us together in an intimate and happy way that many mothers can only dream of; a luxury for which I am beyond grateful. Our house was a little like a return to boarding school, except that my housemates were my daughters and it was far, far more fun.
We were able to enjoy each others’ company without interruption, without undue male influence and demands. Sometimes The Girls would call to find out where I had gone for a drink after work and they would join me. Perhaps I would wander home to find in full flow a laid-back scene plucked from The Young Ones. We rubbed along pretty well. Once or thrice I might have had to text them from my bed or shout downstairs to “keep it down”; on other occasions my phone would ping with a demand that my friends and I lower the volume … “Its a school night, Mum!”
It was at 37 that FirstBorn, the Tornado slipped overnight from angst-ridden teenage hell-raiser into a considerate, feminine, intelligent and intrepid Adventuresse; here that my Exocet evolved from quiet, uncertain schoolgirl into the confident, dedicated and astonishingly talented Patisserie Chef she is today. I am eternally grateful to have witnessed close-up these remarkable metamorphoses, female transitions that circumstance gifted me to appreciate and celebrate daily.
The seven years at 37 are etched in my mind for their love, integrity and indeed, their brevity. In one of life’s deceptive nano-seconds, My Girls grew up and left home. The Tornado has traveled and taught, living first in Central America, then Caucasian Georgia; Exocet has flown across the world to determine her career in Melbourne. They will of course return now and again, if not to settle under my roof then to be Mothered a little while they revisit and retrench. All is as it should be.
In remarkable parallel with this most natural of maternal episodes was the gentle demise of my own mother who, the very month we moved into 37 quite literally fell into the last phase of her life, calmly passing away as Youngest Of All prepared to leave for Australia. Somehow, without notice, Nature set the scene for a whole new chapter, one I had barely seen coming but whose timing and script I could not have improved upon.
Thank you 37, your work is done. I moved last month into a lovely Old Bakery just one street away, without My Girls but with the Beautiful Boyfriend who arrived so unassumingly into my life as the final stages of the family evolution took shape.
Happiness prevails: My Girls are well-rounded, kind and confident women and I find myself with someone gentle, creative, clever and very handsome. Life ebbs and flows, it gives and it takes away and yet when the checks and balances are all accounted for, I put to you: isn’t it grand?
© Giovanna Forte