My setting up a home of my own unexpectedly brought me back in contact with my childhood best friend J, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. (There seems to be a strong instinct in single men to look after each other.)
J's father passed away some time ago, so he had inherited the family manor—big, decrepit and filled with the accretions of generations of packrats. As a child I had spent almost as much time there as in my own home.
With sorrow J had accepted he had to get rid of the house and its contents and now finally he had found buyers well-heeled enough to afford to (hopefully tastefully) renovate the building and the grounds (now just small strips around the building itself rather than the large and unkempt orchard my child-I used to run through to reach the house—the orchard in turn just a corner of the lands that the family had commanded in their heyday at the turn of the previous century).
This weekend was the last that J would have with the house and he invited me to share it with him. I biked over, pedalling on roads so familiar, yet in many places lined with houses that had been crammed in between the ones I remembered. The gravel path up to the house seemed not to have been filled in since I helped shovel gravel into the deepest potholes ages ago. Externally the manor looked just as I remembered it, the same horseshoe doorknocker on the door. I didn't need to use it, J had been expecting me and opened the door as soon as I had locked the bike. (It was imperative to lock the bike when I was 10 too, but I have to have a much sturdier lock these days.)
We went through the house room by room. There was enough of the original furniture still unremoved that it was easy to fill in the missing pieces—very little had been changed in the last 25 years. I peeked into the closet in J's old boys room and was immediately transported back to my tweens: the stacks of Svenska MAD, Märklin catalogues, audio cassettes, and Matchbox armoured cars were still there, overlaid with a slightly later sprinkling of 3.5" flopppies.
Stepping out of the serving passage I felt the smell of sun-warmed wood and remembered how we played ”Den försvunna diamanten” in summers so long ago.
In the end I had to leave, carrying some mementoes J kindly gave me, for a few hours having been back to other days; perhaps happier such.