Today I noticed that a particular room I remember has become a location in more than one book I've read. My brain is a theatre filled with dusty sets and props - every now and then a new production pulls out the old stuff again and it's been so long that everyone's forgotten they were used before.
This room was in the home of a friend of my parents. Only children tend to be taken where plural children are not; they are unlikely to create mischief alone in a room full of adults, and given a book or some paper and crayons, can probably entertain themselves for a while; failing that, they can be precocious and entertain the adults while their parents attend a grownup gathering, drink wine in the afternoon, gently flirt with people who are not their spouse while observing their spouse doing the same thing across the room, and pretend that their life hasn't changed all that much.
So while I also visited this room on quiet afternoons with just my mother, what I remember most is tucking myself away in a corner while the adults mingled and jested and nodded and guffawed and tried out this newfangled wine-in-a-box. I remember the Russian dolls that lived in this house, dolls that I was always allowed to play with most carefully, and how the biggest one squeaked painfully every time her belly was wrenched open along its slice to disgorge her daughters and granddaughters and greatgreatgreats. I remember getting to the point where I would seek out my mother and pull her sleeve and ask, "Pleeeease can we go now?"
I think I remember, too, curling up on the spare bed in the front bedroom, with its soft black woollen coverlet of some sort of holey 70s knitting, and going to sleep there during an occasional evening party; at the end of which my parents would just hoist me up, toss me in the back seat of the car, and drive home. I do remember how the streetlights looked from my horizontal position, cosy in my sleeping bag, watching them flick past against the black; restful orange or bright white, hurting my eyes and sending out spears of light when I squinted.
And then we'd turn into the second-last road and then there'd be a sharp corner and I could always tell our hill by the gradient, as gravity pushed me against the join where the bottom of the seat met the back. Then a quick swing around (my father was quite the rally driver) and the same again as he backed down the steep driveway to the hidden carport at the back of the house.
And then I'd be picked up and I'd pretend to be asleep, and I'd be fireman-carried into the house and up the bumpy stairs and plopped into my own bed under the eaves, under the wooden ceiling, where I belonged.