The Emotional Side of Moving House
I can still remember the day we moved into our little Victorian terrace house. It was a sweltering day in the middle of August, and the beach would have been a better place to be. Travelling backwards and forwards across the city took all day and well into the evening. The bad point was when we hit the side of our new neighbour's car with our hired transit van before we'd even met them.
Back then, I was twenty-four and yet to become a parent. Children would come later. For the time being, I was looking forward to making this house into a home for a couple. I was abound with ideas from house and home magazines. I wanted to accentuate the original features, like the rustic wood floors and old sash windows. I wanted to get my teeth into it right away. I can recall the day with clarity.
It was 1997. This year turned out to be rather significant in many ways. Earlier on in the year, Tony Blair had been appointed Prime Minister - the first time the Labour Party had gained power in a very long time. It was also the year Princess Diana died, and the memory of this is one of my very first from our new house. We had only been living there for two weeks when this tragic news hit the headlines - we were in the dining room , varnishing our newly stripped floors, when my mother told me on the phone. Not quite able to take it in, I spent a good part of the rest of the morning sitting on the stairs with the varnish drying, listening to the radio coverage.
Fourteen entire years have now passed since we moved into this little house. It has been a good house - quaint and cosy with positive vibes. I have always felt safe and happy within its four walls. Two pairs of tiny feet learned to walk here; animals have curled up on the sofas. There have been good times and bad times. The house started off as an inviting and quaint home for a couple; it time it has shrunk in size and is abound with children's clutter. The truth is, this little house could tell a story about almost all of my adult years.
Tonight I sit here, surrounded by boxes. Tomorrow, somebody else will be calling our little house their own. I hope she will take good care of it, because it is difficult to comprehend that I will not turn my key in the lock of the old, original Victorian door again. The door was painted red for so many years; recently it has acquired a sage-green demeanour. We will leave the brick fireplace we exposed ourselves - the bricks are blackened, wonky and full of charming character. When we first moved in, we discarded the carpet and stripped the original floorboards, laid down in 1900. More than once, I have tried to imagine who might have lived here all that time ago, before even the kitchen and bathroom had been added. When it snows (very rarely) and the traffic disappears from the road, I have tried to look at the streets through eyes from long ago, just to get a feel of what life was like then.
Over the course of fourteen years, it is dificult not to become attached to a home. I must admit that the thought of leaving my house, though long outgrown in terms of size, fills me with more than an ounce of dread. I am happy in my surroundings - the move is dictated only by the need for more space. I love my neighbours; I love the way my little son and the girl next door are able to wander freely between one another's gardens. I love the little touches we added to the different rooms - the mosaic tiles in the bathroom; terracotta in the kitchen. The kitchen tiles are chipped in places, due to accidently-dropped crockery. On one occasion, I caught the edge of the drainer containing all my washing up, and the entire lot crashed onto the floor and smashed. Our new resident will see the chips, but she will not know how they came to be.
Once, we even painted all the fences in the back garden blue, after becoming inspired on a trip to Marrakech. Our little house holds the story of our lives; our ideas and creations; our hopes and our dreams and the journey we have taken. It has become imprinted with the invisible footsteps of our everyday lives, right down to the collecter cards my son has slotted through gaps in the floorboards, never to return unless someone lifts the floor. Maybe they will end up in the treasure box of someone else, one hundred years from now, like relics to another time. In the glass arch above the front door a little flower created with glass paints remains, stuck there several years ago. A childish placard displaying my son's name is glued to his bedroom door.
Moving can be a necessary, much desired step up the ladder of life, but that doesn't always mean that it is easy. For me, it isn't even just about the house. Upon departing this little house, my feet will walk down different streets. That may be a good thing, but for me it is hard to imagine heading towards a different local shop to buy little snacks in the evening, or not being round the corner from the very best chip shop in the whole of the city. The window cleaner, with whom I chat to on an almost daily basis, will no longer greet me with his jovial tones. The mechanics in the garage at the top of the road will not smile at my son flashing by on his scooter. I will still take my car to be serviced, but I will have to drive it there instead of simply dropping off the key leaving them to collect it themselves. When I go out I will walk past different houses and meet different people who will, at first, be strangers. The walk to the hub of the city centre will be longer.
In my family, I am the one who will shed the most tears for the very first house we bought. My husband, a typical man, will look ahead with logic and practicality. My children, who live largely in the moment, will greet our new house with vigour and excitement. They will embrace the larger garden and will not look back, into the past and all the memories that remain caught in another place. Life is not about looking back, but you still take with you a little bit of what you have let behind, right there inside your heart, forever.