written by Maria Harten. Maria (she/her) is a second-year student studying English and Sociology at UCD. She loves reading, writing and travelling and wants to write to elicit emotions and feelings from people and to create an understanding that transcends in-person interactions.

Audio Recording:

The house of my childhood is homely and run down. The four cramped downstairs rooms contain the memories of a faded person, a faded family. No photos are lining the walls, the stained yellow wallpaper peels away. The mould adorning the corners interestingly contrasts the plain old manilla.

Manilla, manilla, vanilla. My Father hated that colour ‘It was the thief of joy’, he would always say. He thought it was overused and boring and plain. Yet it brought my mother serenity, from the eclectic house of the working class.

The creaking groaning stairs, with the unstable handrail my father warned us not to lean on. The floorboards in my room that they had saved up for; still did not fit. The little gap of space caching all the dirt and grime made it annoying to brush my room. The floor in the living room with wax stains from spilt candles and water damage from my father’s endless foot soaks. The kitchen with its mismatched cabinets and an awkward table.

The couch we got from my aunt in Cavan. The bed upstairs my uncle donated. The TV was a gift from our grandparents. Everything that we owned had a different life before us. Nothing was a new beginning, but each mismatched item found a use.

The discarded rocking chair that we picked out from someone’s front garden. The upholstering ripped, and the stuffing spilt out. I would pick at it till my hand was slapped away. Stuff was everywhere and we were constantly told ‘We can’t throw that out, what if we have someone over.’ The items from my mother’s past, her Russian pots, woven baskets, the porcelain that she carefully carried from Petersburg.

When we were older, my mother felt less guilty to work. We were in school and could walk home unaccompanied. Despite her broken immigrant English, a restaurant in the shopping centre hired her. It hurt me to see her serve others. She was my mother. I told her I wanted her home and she should quit. Her hurt face and my brother calling me an idiot.

I see now that her job gave her independence and a purpose. She was proud of her work and when she called back home and I eavesdropped through the door, I could hear the envious voice of my aunt. My mother was the lucky one. Being able to work and earn euros in this country was a privilege for her.

Gradually, I noticed changes in the house. The new gleaming kettle, gone was the encrusted limescale. The venik that my grandmother sent us was replaced with a shining Hoover hanging on the wall. We exchanged the gaping hole in the couch with a motorised one; with the press of a button, your feet are supported.

One day a van pulled into our driveway and the windows were changed. My brother painted the outside a warm auburn red.

My home was a constant project of improvement. Each item is proof of my parent’s existence. The new objects that sit proudly are a testament to my mother’s will. We got rid of our old broken Christmas decorations for new shiny glass ones; ‘like back home,’ she said beaming.

I wish to give my mother the kitchen she dreamed of, the extension into the garden. I wish to give my father the stove he longs for, and the outdoor shed he always talks about.

The house is a small testimony of their life, each object meticulously acquired. It may seem claustrophobic now, but once those walls contained the vastness of my imagination. I was lucky to avoid the polished, cold marble and sharp corners. I should be so lucky as to have a dilapidated, eclectic house of my own.

Image: Dream by Delphine Arnault. Delphine is an artist from France but based in Ireland since 2003. After studying Art in College in France, Delphine has had exhibitions in Cork, worked as an illustrator for Cork City Council, and has also worked with publishers in Ireland. Delphine is currently planning a solo show exhibiting all her new work in the near future.

Audio recording narrated by David Kelly and edited by Colm O’Shea. Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSrkDv_fYWE