We’re all feeling uprooted at the moment. We’re living in a kind of limbo.
Someday – hopefully soonish – we’ll be uprooting our family from our home in North Cornwall to a new house near Falmouth.
The actual move still feels a long way off. We don’t even have an exchange date yet. But we’ve already started withdrawing emotionally from our now-home.
Just like when you’ve been dumped by a boyfriend and – after spending some time crying about what you’ve lost and thinking you’ll never find anyone better – you move onto the bit where you realise there were quite a few annoying things about him, and then graduate to the stage where you have no pigging clue why you put up with him so long.
Well, it feels a little a bit like that.
It’s what I can only describe as ‘the unhoming of home’.
It’s a necessary stage, I guess. Otherwise moving home would be too painful and thus impossible.
And this time it’s already difficult enough.
Chris and I have moved house so many times before. But this time it’s different. This time we have kids to worry about.
It’s got me thinking about where home is.
And about what home means.
We’re all nomads these days
I guess it’s the modern condition that many of us don’t stay in the communities we are born into.
I have lived in Cornwall for ten years but I was born in Leeds, and came here via London – where I spent most of my adult life – with big chunks of time spent in Paris, Northern Italy, Spain, Central America and Florence.
I’ll never go ‘home’ to Leeds. I’ve been away far too long to go back.
And besides, it’s changed too much. Leeds looks nothing like it did back then. Going ‘home’ would be like going to a new city. Starting again. But with too many old memories jumping out of the shadows, snatches of the past clinging onto vaguely familiar architecture by their fingernails.
It would be like going back to a once-loved holiday destination, and squandering the whole fortnight looking for the beautiful cove you misremember from years ago. Thoroughly miserable because reality doesn’t ever correspond to nostalgia.
I have no family there anymore. My family is just my parents now – and they followed us down to Cornwall when they became grandparents.
Plus I carelessly let go of old friendships when I left.
Back when it was hopelessly easy to fall out of touch. When few of us had mobile phones. Or email.
Once we all went off to uni, I’d have needed to write real letters, or leave messages on parents’ landlines, scheduling conversations in between lectures, homework, nights out – feeding coins into hungry phone boxes to keep in touch.
I didn’t do any of that.
So I quickly disappeared from the face of that earth.
My long fling with London
I became someone else in London.
Even my accent changed. Seventeen years with my husband has left me with a voice more Essex than Yorkshire. Although I’ll never get my tongue around the Southern ‘a’, so I still ‘laff’ rather than ‘larf’ and enjoy a ‘bath’, but never a ‘barth’.
London was home for a long, long time. Despite lusty flings with other cities in other countries, London always drew me back. To regroup. To earn some more cash. To get my life back together before the next trip.
I loved London. I felt part of its raw, ugly, gritty, exciting soul. I felt like I belonged there. It felt like home.
But the last trip away killed that feeling for good.
We’d spent a year in Florence. I was researching my PhD and Chris winged a job on a vineyard/olive grove north of the city. If I remember our time there on a good day, it was a wonderful year. But in reality Florence never suited us.
We spent long swathes of that year pining for somewhere more raw, more real, more London. We were too wild to live in that genteel city. It was too tame for the likes of us back then.
But when we returned to London, it soon became clear that we couldn’t stay there either. A year in Italy had softened us up. Our immunity to the concrete, the violence, the chaos of London had worn away in the Tuscan sunshine. What we’d long considered edgy, now just felt brutal.
We looked for somewhere gentler, more beautiful, more natural to run to, and serendipity brought us down here, to Cornwall.
Starting again felt exciting. We were rolling stones, on the move once more. Forever on the lookout for the next adventure. The next home.
Then – we had kids.
Priorities changed and we prepared to settle down. To let the moss grow and enjoy the comfort of it.
We moved to this lovely town. Met great people. Got the kids into a sweet school. Enjoyed bumping into friends, neighbours, classmates every two seconds. Living in the bosom of a real community.
To tell the truth, I could have stayed here forever. I probably would have. But. But.
Back in autumn last year, Chris put a spanner in the works with his:
“I want to move to Falmouth.”
“But what about the kids? Their school? Our friends? Our life here? It’s all right for you – you’ve got friends there. The kids will have to start again. So will I. God, what will we do about school?”
That was how the unhoming of home started.
The idea grew and grew in my mind until it was no longer something only he wanted, but something I wanted too.
I guess that’s how we adapt to new situations. We start off rejecting something and then end up inhabiting it until it we desire it with all our hearts.
And so it is. One day, someday, home will relocate 36 miles down the road.
New house. New school. New friends. New life. New home.
One by one the worries have fallen away. As we’ve found a great school to move them to. As we’ve found a new home that suits us better. As we’ve grown into the idea.
I don’t think Chris and I will ever settle down. Places don’t seem to pin us down for long. The steadiest place on earth we have seems to be together.
The kids are very small still. And, although I know they’ll miss their friends, this house, their school, I also know they’ll soon adapt to their new lives. Children do. And we’ll still see the people that we are destined to keep in touch with. It won’t be the same, I know. But we’ll all try to make it happen. As much as busy families can make anything other than the absolutely fundamental happen. We’ll try our best, that’s what I mean.
What really matters is that we are together. For now, we are home.
It won’t always be this way. I know one day they’ll be longing to leave home – and that will be as much about breaking away from us as changing the bricks and mortar they live in.
But for now, we are home and home is us.
So maybe we’re not unhoming at all. Just unhousing. And that must surely be a little easier.