Yesterday, friends packed up their home of many decades and closed the door. It is no more.
It saddens me, as one who has had to do this so many times in my life, always hoping it will last, always turning the key and passing the memory to another to make their own, my heart is broken for them.
When my mother had to leave her home of fifty four years, to go to frail care, she stopped living. Her home was her life and the years that followed were simply ones of existing. For those who tripple lightly from place to place, the idea of become too attached seems foolish, but for those for us who built a life, raised our children, entertained our friends, loved and fought and struggled and laughed again, home was the place of safety, of being, of purpose.
Children leave home always thinking it is there to return to. No matter how grown, there is the place of tree climbing, of wendy housing, or birthday parties. Where summer meant swimming and playing hide in the dark. Gardens grow around homes. Fairies visit. Animals guard and sneak into your bed. Lie buried in the back yard. ‘Time to go home’, meant everything.
As we muddle, and sometimes, fall through life, and we think of the one thing that makes us feel as if we belong, it is home, and it is the house, no matter the words of ‘home is where the heart is.’ It is the walls that hold that marks of growing taller, and the change of paint. The walls that wear the pictures and shelter from thunder storms. Home is the smell of biscuits, wet hair and having friends sleep over. Nursing babies through the night. It all happens in that one place.
My father once told me, when the boxes are packed, it is just a building with walls. He was wrong. A home is the cover of the book of your life, the chapters develop within and the ending should, as my mother had hoped, end there. I see people change when they leave their homes of so many years – they are never quite the same, their ghosts lie back in that place. It takes forever to adjust to somewhere new, especially when so much of your family life has grown in that one place. The longer we have lived in that house, the less we will find a new footing without longing for her.
I wish them well. But as the night falls on the empty house, before the breaking of a new owner, she will lie still and wonder why we left her. We will wonder too, though it be circumstance or will, we will miss her and all the opportunities she gave us to put the kettle on, have a glass of wine at the end of the day and light the candles, knowing we were where we should be … home.
If home is where the heart is, than the heart is in the house of our stories.