Ring The Changes

Entry by: Alobear

5th March 2021
I reach up and press the doorbell.

A jangling rings out from behind the door, as if an old-fashioned brass bell is actually hanging on the other side and is somehow connected to the modern buzzer beneath my finger.

The outside of the house has certainly changed since I was last here. The toxic sludge shade of grey paint that had always covered the bumpy pebble-dash of the walls is now a bright, pristine white. I wonder how often they have to touch it up to keep it looking so fresh.

And the evil holly hedge that was the source of many a scratched arm in years gone by has been ripped up by the roots and replaced with a smart fence. The flowerbeds my grandmother took such pride in are still front and centre on either side of the door, though. And they are filled with the signs of early spring. Snowdrops and daffodils abound in cheerful cream and yellow under the clean and sparkling windows.

Whoever lives here now looks after the place, at least.

I hear footsteps approaching and my breath catches in my throat as the door opens to reveal a woman a few years older than me. Her eyes are wide with curious enquiry at this stranger appearing at her door.

“Can I help you?” Her face is kind, no hint of suspicion in her tone.

“Um, yes. Well, maybe…” Now that I’m actually here, I feel stupid.

It’s been such a long time. The house has clearly moved on without me. Other people live here now and they’ve made so many changes. Glancing into the entrance hall, I can see that the awful 1970s wallpaper (green and yellow flowers on a purple background) is long gone. The white paint on the outside of the house extends to the interior, making the hallway seem much more spacious and less forbidding.

The woman is still staring at me, and the kindness in her expression is starting to falter.

“I’m sorry,” I say, gathering myself. “This was my grandparents’ house, a long time ago. My mother was born here and I lived here myself for a few years after university.” So much time has passed, but it feels like yesterday that I entered this house as my first solo living space as an adult. “I was passing through on my way back to London and couldn’t resist driving past to take a look. It’s all so different, and I just wondered if I might…”

My words trail off, drying up in my throat as I realise how ridiculous I sound.

But the woman smiles and steps back to allow me access.

“Oh, I know what that feeling is like. I often wonder who lives in the houses where I had my kids.” She beckons. “Why don’t you come in and have a cup of tea? You’re right, though, we have made a lot of changes since we moved in. But you’re welcome to come and have a nosey.”

“I don’t blame you.” I smile back. “I would have redecorated myself if I’d had the money. That wallpaper was hideous…”

I follow her into the house whose shell is so familiar, but whose personality had changed beyond all recognition since it was my shelter so long ago. As the woman closes the door behind me, the brass bell above it jingles cheerily as if the house recognises me, even though I’ve changed almost as much as it has. A ringing welcome from an old friend.