We’ve been here a while now, and there’s something about these four walls, something that is good for us.
This little house, with its red door and sloping garden, with its one single and two double bedrooms and potential to extend, with the kitchen diner we opened up by knocking out a wall, with the shed which we dream will one day be a studio, with its split-level patio which could do with an overhaul… this little house is ours.
It’s been more than three months since we suddenly found it belonged to us, since we picked up the keys and drove the children here and popped the champagne in the wine fridge we were so delighted to see left behind. It’s been more than three months since we bought a bed and a vacuum cleaner in the sale and borrowed a dining table and worked out that the fridge door doesn’t close if there’s anything in it (thank goodness for the wine fridge) and we started making our home.
You see, we’d been moving around, for a long time.
I left Edinburgh, where I’d been at home while I studied, more than 11 years ago. Since then, away from home, I’ve missed birthdays, weddings, friends, babies, life, deaths. I moved to Taiwan, then after a a year, I packed up a bag, travelled around beautiful, beautiful places on the way to moving to New Zealand with the intention of returning home soon. I didn’t. There was a rickety old flat that swayed in the wind, then an apartment that leaked, then a simple rental by the beautiful sea, then back to the leaky apartment and then our first home. It was beautiful, I see that now, but while we lived it, it was cold and hard work and a renovation project to big for the likes of me – although Tony wouldn’t be beaten. And then we moved back to London, to the place I grew up, but it was all temporary, until we found here.
This place, our home.
Where our children run down the hall with bare feet and squeal so loudly before bath time I feel bad for the neighbours. Where they have both fallen over the garden steps enough to know now to tread carefully, which means we’ll delay for many years getting the patio done properly. Where they share a bedroom which I keep nagging Tony to strip the wallpaper from so we can decorate to make their very own. Where Milin has settled, where Jasmin still calls the ‘new house’ and where Milin no longer finds fills him with melancholy homesickness because it is new. Where we have worked out the quirks of the downstairs toilet and porch door. Where we’re yet to try the two gas fires, and where we’re yet to bring in our very own dining table and where we’ve already got a stain on the dark grey sofa and a faulty light switch and just the usual things that happen.
We might not stay here forever. How can we, with our families on opposite sides of the globe, ever call anywhere our forever home? Well, it is forever, for now. Because this it the place our children call out in the night, the place they cry when they’re sad and the place they laugh – oh how they laugh together. This is the place where we hold each other when it’s late and we are done with our days and haven’t any answers other than that we are here. This is the place where we will scratch their heights into the door frames and hang our pictures on the walls. This is the place where we will turn on the lights in the morning and gather ourselves before taking on the day. This is the place where the children will make handprints in red paint and learn to write their names, this is the place where they sit on the bottom step to do up their shoes. This is the place where they crawl into bed with us in the morning and rub their eyes and say their first words of the day which never fail to surprise us with their irrelevance.
This is the place, already, which is our forever for now. Because we are here, together, and we are happy. These walls have helped us get there, to find this place.
Life isn’t perfect. It’s rubbish in so many ways for so many reasons. But our little house with the red door makes some of the sharp edges and ill-fitting pieces of the jigsaw matter a little less. It gives us a place to come to each other when we are a little more broken, and a place to be as we try to fit the pieces together to mend ourselves, it gives is something that matters for us, that we needed. This place which is ours, it is our home. For us, for now.