I went to a teeny little antiques fair on Sunday with Mark’s Mum (She’s off her trolley, but I love her) and found amongst the flotsom and the jetsom some teeny little treasures including flowery hankies for wrapping teeny Christmas gifts, a vintage childs learn to tell the time puzzle for Finley’s stocking (horribly difficult to put together!!), the prettiest jade green necklace, two child sized padded hangers, a few little gifts talking about may ruin a surprise or two, and a box full of Victorian building blocks with a picture on one side that took me flying back to my childhood…
I am ten. I am standing in Nana’s teeny little hexagonal shaped hall, running my hand over the bumps on the little bamboo telephone table and talking to my mum on the old green phone. Nana is making gravy in the smallest kitchen you have ever seen and I can see Helen squashed up on the sofa watching Shirley Temple in The Little Princess. I am wrapped in a brown peasant patterned brush cotton shawl with a long cream fringe, pinched from Nana’s wardrobe and tied fetchingly in a knot at my chin. My hair is longer than it will ever be again and I am on the brink of teenage boredom. We are here every weekend and I know this flat like I know the back of my hand. I know the smell of Nana’s downtrodden slippers. I know the name of every Frank Sinatra album in her fake mahogany display unit, the way the water in her taps is always steaming hot and the little pot holder that describes itself as a "get round to it". I know how cold the 1930’s tiles are in the bathroom, the repeat of the turquoise swirls decorating the carpet, and the tweedy green scratchy feel of the armchair in the living room.
And most of all I know what the picture of the balloon seller says on the wall above the telephone table:
"If there were dreams to sell, Merry and sad to tell, And the crier rang his bell, What would you buy?"
Words written on my heart ever after. I know this picture you see. I know what the balloon seller looked like and the black of the frame against the wallpaper. I know how much Nana loved it but I don’t know why. Who bought it? Did she buy it herself? What happened to it when she died? What dreams was she hoping would one day be for sale?
And more than this. Did she know as I do, that dreams are like balloons? That if you let go they float away for ever, tantalisingly out of reach or sometimes lost in the sky forever?
Don’t let go. Hold them till your knuckles turn white.