When I was a child, I usually spent my school vacations with one of my grandparents’. It was a time to be spoiled, a time for fun and a change of scenery. I always looked forward to those visits.
My maternal grandparents lived in a very old town called Parys in the Free State. I love all things ‘old and magical’, thus Parys still holds a very special place in my heart. It is close to the river, which meant we’d take long walks with our elderly, but still spry, grandfather along the banks of the river, looking for treasure as we went. I always came home with bags full of smooth rocks, glass, interesting little bits and pieces people dropped along the way and God knows how many other things my mother secretly had to throw away.
My grandparents never bought a house or flat, they always rented, which meant they had to move a lot. The flat that really stuck in my mind was the one in the middle of town, right next to a small shopping complex. It was a spacious one-bedroom flat on the second floor with a huge, well-kept communal garden. Since they only had the one bedroom, it meant I had to sleep on the divan in their little dining room. The dining table took up one corner, the divan another, and the only decoration was a huge oil painting of wolves howling at the full moon.
For some reason, that place creeped me the fuck out. It was an old building, as most were in those days, and at night it creaked and cracked and settled in very strange ways. Every evening, before falling asleep, I’d stare at the portrait of the wolves, and if I looked at it long enough, I could hear the wolves’ sorrowful howling.
My grandparents moved to another flat, the portrait of the howling wolves disappeared, and I had all but forgotten about it. My grandmother died, my grandfather died and so the time came when we had to move their belongings out of their flat and divide it up amongst the family. For some reason, I remembered the portrait of the wolves and asked my mother what became of it. She gave me a weird look, and asked, “What portrait?”
“The ones of the wolves howling at the full moon,” I replied.
“Your grandparents never had a portrait like that,” she said.
“No, no – I remember it. I used to think the wind was the wolves howling.”
My mother insisted a painting like that had never graced the walls of any flats my grandparents occupied. I asked both my sisters, and neither of them could remember it either.
To this day, I can not look at paintings or drawings of howling wolves, without experiencing a weird, creepy feeling.