I spent the early years of my life moving around, a lot. I went to five different schools in eight years. Just when I felt I’d found my space, my Dad would come home, announce he’d got a new job somewhere else and we’d be on the move again. Maybe it’s one of the reasons I don’t deal well with change, the reason that I never, ever want to leave my job or our house where I am now raising my family. The reason I plant trees to root myself and my children to this piece of land for the long run.
Then, when I was twelve, my parents finally settled, in a house that I chose. My Mum dragged us round house after house for months, while we were seeing a bitterly cold autumn out living in a caravan. As soon as we arrived at this particular house, I fell in love. From that point on, each new house we visited I’d sit in the car, refusing to get out, and cry, saying I wanted THAT house. And that house was indeed the one my parents bought, though I don’t think that was just down to my bratty pre-teen tears. It was a beautiful house, with very individual character, and apparently one of the first ever houses in England designed by a female architect. It had even been part of a strange religious cult back in the day, so it had an exciting story.
This was the house where I lived my teenage years, that I returned to on my brief holidays from medical school, where I brought my now-husband home to meet the family for the first time, and then my two children.
I even got married there. I said my wedding vows standing on the veranda, surrounded by the people I love most in the world. We sat and feasted on pasty and scones in a yurt in the garden. Our guests camped in tents at the end of the garden, and the next day we rounded off the festivities with a barbecue breakfast, lounging on the lawn in the glorious June sunshine. Some of my happiest moments happened there.
There are lots of less happy memories as well. My family is a complicated one, and relationships can be very strained. Recently we have spent very little time there, visiting rarely, as I find it very hard being there. And yet it was still home. Still that constant point.
It has been hard for my mother to spend much time with us since I became a mother myself. When my daughter was just a few days old my elderly grandmother moved to live next door to her, and she has been her carer ever since. It is very difficult for her to leave and travel the several hours to visit us, though she does come as often as she can. For the last year or so she has been talking about moving to live nearby, when she visited we’d spend hours looking at housing websites and going on house viewings. I allowed myself to get so excited about this possibility. We have no grandparents living anywhere near us, and little in the way of close family. I loved the idea of my children growing up with her close by, popping by after school, having her over for dinner regularly. I may have selfishly also dreamt of a regular babysitter, and even, can you believe it, overnight visits!! I adore my mother, and the idea of her being a real, constant presence in the lives of my children just felt wonderful.
A few days ago my parents sold and moved out of my childhood home. There is a new family living there now. And they moved to another, smaller house five minutes down the road from it. The reality of the situation is that my mother has far too many responsibilities holding her there, and that, whilst extra support would be enormous for us, really we are able to support ourselves. We have managed for more than five years, and we will continue to manage. I chose to set up my forever home hours away from my parents, and I cannot expect them to uproot themselves to suit me.
I can’t help but feel a little sad. Sad at losing that constant in my life, sad at the thought of never returning to the home of so many happy memories. Sad at losing that nice dream of Mum living just down the road. A little sad that once again, I feel as if I am at the bottom of the list of priorities. And a little lost at the strange thought that at this moment in time, I don’t even know my parents’ address! I wouldn’t know where to find them. I suppose this is another step in that ongoing process of finally becoming a grown up, one that eventually ends when your parents die, and you really can never return home. I am very grateful, I don’t feel nearly grown-up enough for that yet!