Starlight Serenade



One morning recently I was drifting awake to the sound of my radio and I heard a rich tenor voice singing these words

You came when the stars were gleaming

You came after all my dreaming

That night when they played the Starlight Serenade

For you, with the stars above you….

And I was back at O’Mahoney’s, and Mr O was waltzing round the sitting room with Mrs O in his arms and we, their daughters and I their all-too-frequent visitor, were squeezed together giggling in the hallway. My friends were embarrassed, but I was filled with yearning. Why couldn’t my parents be like that? My mother with her many babies and her braids pinned up on her head, my father with his big boots and his pipe; I could never see them spinning, arms wide, heads turned back, Mrs O’s skirt flaring out. Just like someone in a film.

All the summer holidays I ran down the back lane to O’Mahoney’s. Grandma watched me run down and when it was time to go home Mr O watched me run up again.

Our house was ruled by Grandma and our father was often away working in Rum Jungle. That was why, even when he was home, he wore khaki shirts and big boots. Mr O had been in the war, so he didn’t have to go to work any more. That record he played was a very old one. He told us the singer’s name was Chick and he had died in the war. Mr O had been very brave and got lots of medals, he said.

Our house was big and quiet and polished. O’Mahoney’s was full of life. The lovely smell of cigarettes had sunk into the curtains and cushions, the smell of fried bread came from the kitchen.

Sometimes when I came panting in the back door, I might find a sideboard blocking my path. That was good. It meant this was a day when they were changing the rooms around. The sitting room became the dining room, Maureen swapped bedrooms with Deidre and so on. When Auntie Ena, who usually lived in the sleep-out, was dying, they had her in a bed in the sitting room and we all played around her. She didn’t seem to mind. We heard her gasping breaths, but it seemed quite normal to us.

I felt normal at O’Mahoney’s. Not someone who lived in a strange old house, or someone whose father drove a strange Volkswagen car, or someone who was supposed to spend all her time doing her piano practice. They listened to me. I was part of their discussions. When we sat out on the front veranda after tea and chatted about what we would do when we won the lottery, they listened to me when I suggested they build another story with little attic windows on top of their house. I didn’t want them moving away.

Those nights sitting on the veranda with the stars above us, with little puffs of disinfectant wafting on the air from the Lustral factory across the road, were among the happiest of my life.


You were mine, we were close together…

27 thoughts on “Starlight Serenade

  1. Nice to have people like the O’Mahoneys in one’s life. What did the Lustral company make? Lustral today is another trade name for Zoloft, but somehow I think that was not until recently.

      1. And don’t either of you remember what you did with burnt bricks that you collected? And how you built that fort and held a tea party inside and you came out all covered with soot? All hell to pay when you tracked that over the new lino on the kitchen floor.

                  1. Don’t know Billy Bunter (but just looked him up –nothing remotely like him in American literature of that period that I’m familiar with). Too bad!

                    Our father loved murder mysteries. For some years, it was my sister’s and my job to go to the library and check out Perry Mason, Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe, and whatever else was available in that genre. We’d come home with several each week, and once he finished them, we would read them; next week back to the library for more. I’m sure that my mother had made some arrangement with the library, because I doubt that most kids in the 4th – 6th grade were allowed to take those for their own reading.

                    1. Strange reading for primary school readers. Can you remember what you made of them? Our father tried to get us to read Swallows and Amazons a more worthy English series, but we were wedded to anything that was silly and funny Some things never change

                  2. And never forget William Brown and how one of you (I forget which one) had the aspiration to be Violet Elizabeth Bott and was always threatening to “thcrweam and thcrweam ’till I’m thick”.

                    And then you were. Sick.

                    All over “My Man Jeeves”. Now that was a crisis.

      2. Yes — disinfectant might be good today. But collecting burnt bricks and building a fort — possibly better. And pencils. And a swimming pool in the backyard? You sounds like our wild cousins who we always envied despite the household with no dancing.

      1. Oh they have a past and it’s what makes them who they are today. The here and now is so much better because of it Josie.

        1. “Time present and time past
          Are both perhaps present in time future,
          And time future contained in time past.
          If all time is eternally present
          All time is unredeemable.
          What might have been is an abstraction
          Remaining a perpetual possibility
          Only in a world of speculation.
          What might have been and what has been
          Point to one end, which is always present.
          Footfalls echo in the memory
          Down the passage which we did not take
          Towards the door we never opened
          Into the rose-garden.”

          T.S.Eliot in his well-known poem about Gert.

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