Yesterday, my parents moved out of the house we as a family have lived in for twenty-seven years. It is white and has bumpy roughcast exterior walls, and when I was younger I would find a soft section and dig my finger in, dislodging the occasional pebble. I apologise to the new owners for the vandalism. This move has been a long time coming, so there is no tsunami of sadness, however, I bet when I visit my parents in their new home it will feel like it’s on the other side of the world, and that white bumpy house of my childhood will be like Kansas was for Dorothy.
It was the house where my dad taught my sister and I to ride our bikes by pushing us down the gentle slope of the garden, which back then, felt like a mountain, and we’d charge around and around the apple tree, burning off all that excess childish energy. It was the garden where Fiona and I painted some paving slabs bright pink on a day our dad was meant to be looking after us. It’s the house where I had sleepovers and we’d threaten to stay awake all night, then the unfortunate one of us who fell foul to sleep would inevitably get covered in make up. It was where I spent hours on MSN to Suzie and Tony, or even once or twice to a guy I was trying and failing to seduce, no doubt with my mother hovering over me, insisting I go to bed right now should I fall prey to lecherous men on those dreaded forums.
The problem with living in the same house for the majority of your life – minus those many breaks to Manchester, and that one to New Zealand – is that the memories have little definition. You can only base your age on what colour your room was painted, or whether you were old enough to have a double bed by then. Instead, it’s a lucky dip memory bin; you slide your hand inside without any idea what memory you could pull out.
Today is when I realised I won’t see that house again. I’m sure my sister won’t miss the roar of shower water hitting the bath at midnight from her adjacent bedroom, and I certainly don’t wish to recreate the time I broke my ankle and had to haul myself up and down the stairs on my bum. Besides that though, the house was so much more than a collection of rooms and my parents’ presence. It was the easy sleepy stumble to the bathroom in the dark of night, the high door handles, the sound of my dad shutting up the house before going to bed, it’s Christmas with pine needles all over the carpet, the gas fire flickering, and the Queen on TV. It’s the distant sound of my mum’s piano practice, the daily battle with the wifi connection, the meaning of no privacy when I tried to make up dance routines in my room and my sister would walk in, the constant conversations about the pet rabbits in the garden, and when they eventually and devastatingly died, the garden was where their ashes were scattered (and then my dad immediately, without thinking, mowed the lawn).
Although I don’t remember everything I cooked, or even when I started cooking, that kitchen was were I learnt, and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, always in the same seat closest to the door. The kitchen is where my dad made endless messes and used every pan we own to make a single dinner, Fiona and I concocted our famous pasta, salmon and cream cheese dish which my friend David described as ‘just wrong’, where I smacked my head against an open cupboard door and my mum wanted to take me to A&E in case I had concussion.
I started this blog in that house. It will stay a part of me and my family forever. Those four walls kept us safe for a long time, and I will miss it’s smell, that feeling when you return home from a holiday and the house sits waiting, cold and unused, until your return. We will find new homes and make new memories. But, those twenty-seven years will be cherished.