Some of you may know that I moved house recently. It’s not my first move – in fact, I’ve moved house five times in the last five years. Crazy times! It wasn’t planned, but you know what it’s like. Circumstances change and you find yourself packing up once again. Drat those circumstances!
When I left my most recent house, just over a month ago, I took photos so that I would be able to remember it. Truthfully, I expected to be in floods of tears for months. It was, after all, a very nice house, and we’d had a pleasant and (mostly) peaceful time there, and the only reason I’d considered moving at all was purely down to financial reasons. It was quite expensive, and my dream is to give up the day job next year and write full time – actually, it’s not a dream, it’s a plan! Must get that into my head! – so we’re looking at all ways to make the loss of that extra income doable and bearable. So really, if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have moved at all because I was quite settled where I was.
What’s really astonished me is finding that I absolutely don’t miss that house at all. I haven’t shed a single tear for it, and I’ve found myself settling into the new house quite easily. I remember, five years ago, when I left the house I was living in at the time, that I realised very quickly that I’d made a mistake, and I sobbed and sobbed for weeks. I really, actually grieved for that house, yet it was nowhere near as nice as the one I’ve just left behind.
This got me thinking about houses and homes. My latest book, New Doctor at Chestnut House, is all about home. Is home a place, or a person? When I wrote it, I wasn’t thinking about my own circumstances at all. At least, not consciously. Now, though, I wonder if, at some level, I already knew the answer to that question.
You see, the house that I left five years ago was the last house where I had children living at home. By the time I moved out, they’d long gone. I had become an empty-nester. Since then, I’ve realised no house I’ve ever lived in has actually felt like home in the sense that I used to mean it. I miss my kids, is the top and bottom of it. Not that I could stand living with them again! 🙂 They’re all adults now, and have lives of their own. Some of them have children of their own. Frankly, it would drive me insane to have any of them under my roof permanently, as much as I love each and every one of them. No, I mean, I miss having them around when they were little. I miss being at the heart of a large, noisy, rather chaotic family. I miss being Mum. Obviously, I still am Mum, but it’s not the same, is it? Nowadays, when my kids say “Mum”, they’re usually rolling their eyes and shaking their heads in despair at something I’ve said or done – and they’re mostly looking down at me, as all but one of them is taller than me, and two of them are over six foot so it’s a bit of a stretch to clip them round the ear. (Not that I ever would, of course…) Back then, my babies would be looking up at me, all wide-eyed and sweet, arms outstretched, often wanting a cuddle. *Sob*.
When I think of “home” I think of those evening meals around the table, the Christmas mornings, the noise, the sound of the front door opening and shutting so often that I wished I had a revolving door instead. I think of sibling squabbles, and endless Disney films, and toys all over the floor, and mountains of washing, and escaping to the loo just for a moment’s peace.
Going further back, I think of my childhood home. I remember my mum in the kitchen, making tea, and Dad in the garden, mowing the lawn or feeding the rabbits. I remember my little brother being very annoying and cheeky, and sitting on a packet of Digestive biscuits just so that no one else could eat them. I remember my sister deliberately dropping my Petite typewriter on the floor because I’d accidentally sat on her Tippy Tumbles doll and snapped the leg off. (Yeah, I remember, sis…)
Point is, that’s home. It’s not four walls and a roof. It’s not the wallpaper or paint you slap on the walls. It’s not the new furniture, or even having a lovely garden to sit out in. It’s the people – the people we love, and wouldn’t be without, however much they annoy us.
So I think that’s why I haven’t shed a tear for the last few houses I’ve lived in. My heart isn’t in a house – any house. It’s in my mum, and in the memory of my lovely dad, and in my brother and sister, and my husband, and my three sons, and my two daughters. It’s with all the people I’ve lived with and loved, and there it will stay, safe and secure, no matter where I go. How lucky am I?
Have a great week.