It’s strange how – when you know you’re going to be moving – you start to look around where you live and see things in a completely different way. Even before the For Sale sign has gone up outside, and the first potential buyers have stepped in the door, it stops being quite so much of a ‘home’ and starts turning back into just ‘a house’.
You refer to it, in emails to estate agents, as your ‘property’. You start to notice the cobwebs in the corners, and immediately add ‘long-handled duster’ to the shopping list in your head. You spot the scuffs in the paintwork, the cracks in the cornicing, and all those trails of spilled smoothie on the cream carpet. You realise that you still haven’t fixed the hole where the neighbour’s hamster chewed through your wall. You wish you’d had the time and money to do the bathroom, the den, and the windows.
Jeez, you think. Where are we going to put all these books? And paintings? And rugs? Maybe, you think, it’s time to get rid of all the old baby clothes.
You try and remember how the wardrobe comes apart, what angle you have to hold the dining room table at to fit it through the doorframe, and where you put that special screwdriver; the one you need to disassemble the bed.
You start to become very objective, about it all, very distant. And then a draft of the particulars arrives in your inbox – all adjectives and professional photos.
Gosh, you think, what a lovely house.
There’s the dining room, where you sat with friends over long dinners, drank wine and whisky in front of the fire. There’s one bedroom, where you were helped into your wedding dress; and there’s the other, where you stood over your new son in his Moses basket, and leaned in to hear him breathe. There’s the kitchen, cosy and cluttered; pureed blueberry spattered on the wall, music always playing on the radio, family photos pinned to the corkboard. There’s the den, where you took family naps on the sofa; and the hallway, where entire cities were built out of Lego.
Gosh, you think, what a lovely home.
Haven’t we been lucky to call it ours? We have warmed up the old, stone walls and filled the rooms with laughter and love. We have tended the garden, mended the fence, and added a beautiful piece of stained glass to the entrance hall.
There is an advert for something – I forget what, perhaps a watch – that says ‘You never own it. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
It’s a good way of thinking about material things. We have never really ‘owned’ this house, just made it our home until it was the turn of another family. I hope they don’t mind the scuffs in the paintwork. I hope they keep the walls nice and warm. I sure hope I remember where that screwdriver is.