For the last few months I had been asking Errol how he felt about moving from our inner city apartment to a house with a yard. When he said he felt that it was too stressful and too soon I changed my questioning to ask even if he felt it was too much, could we anyway? His patience and grace for me is astounding and I soon found myself at every possible open house. The rental market was tight and inspection after inspection I found myself looking at houses that I couldn’t envision as our home and with 10 other couples all ready to hand their paperwork in. There is something quite disconnected about walking through the shell of someone else’s home and imaginging yourself there, especially when the woman next to you is also imagining herself there.
Soon all the inspections rolled into one and I found myself disillusioned about finding a new home. I wanted to give up but then I’d find our son trying to play playdoh in our tiny apartment on the carpeted floor and long to give him the space and freedom to play and explore. Late one night I found a little house in a leafy suburb listed online. A white picket fence, the cottage hidden by a mass of vines and leaves curling right up to the rooftop. I emailed the link to Errol with the words “I have a good feeling about this one”. As it happened, this was the only house that Errol inspected alone. I had planned to send Errol with the children to a birthday party while I went to the inspection (afterall, I am the ‘picky’ one when it comes to where we live so it made sense that I saw it first). At the last minute the children were in tears at the prospect of their mama leaving them at the party and so with a reluctant wave I sent Errol off alone. I love him but the man doesn’t even notice whether a house has carpet or tiles… I was mildly concerned.
When he returned to the party a few hours later he said simply “It’s the best house. And the worst house. It might be haunted. Let’s get it”.
He went on to explain that this old cottage had everything I had hoped for, large windows, high ceilings, floorboards and a large leafy garden for the children – but that it had also fallen into disarray and had water damage, missing glass panes to half the louvers, paint peeling from the walls and ceilings and a garden that had not been tended to in years. The house came with a promise for these things to be amended before we became tenants so with a heart alight with nerves and excitement we filled our application for the new place.
And suddenly we’re moving house.
I feel sentimental as we pack up our inner city apartment in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. I hear some of our neighbours coming home in the stairwell after a Saturday night out. They giggle and fall against the wall as they giggle more. I am quiet in the living room as they pass outside. Little moments of apartment living that I will and won’t miss. As I continue packing I hear them start the shower, drop something, shuffle around upstairs. I pull our photos from the walls, carefully dabbing the blue tack with a larger clump, living no trace of the memories that hung here – the memories that were made here. It’s a little haunting leaving the shell of our home. Just a shell, for the home will come with us wherever we roam. Someone else will live here soon; it will be their home and they’ll never know all the stories that were forged in the living room where they eat. They won’t know of the tantrums and the tears and the eggs that were cracked right under their feet. When they sleep at night will they ever think of the bodies that laid there before them? Our bodies, all intertwined. The soft naked baby bottom pressed up against tired parents. A toddler turned little girl cradled in her fathers arms. Our place, their place, our place. I think about one of my favourite children’s books as I pack. A layered story that seems so much larger than this apartment as I gather all the things that tie us down and carefully pack them in boxes and baskets.
We get the keys for our new house and stand in empty rooms filled with so much promise of life to be lived in these spaces. Delicate hopes to be weaved into life. We affectionately name our old cottage ‘The Humble Ivy’.
The first morning we spend here the children run up and down the hall, bare feet padding on old marked floor boards. The light streams in and the dust dances in it’s path. My parents and brothers help us move in and we get to know our new place. We settle into this house happy, with its creaky ceiling and wild backyard of purple & green. The children play outside daily, climbing trees and hosting impromptu picnics under leafy cover. Lovely friends gift us little presents for our home (candles & tea and little things pictured above from my generous friend Jodi). A life long dream of a bed-room (a room of wall-to-wall bed) is realised and we create a little nest for our family bed. We make friends with the wildlife in our street, a mother possum and her just emerging baby. We make friends with the families in this street, knowing our neighbours by name for the first time in years. Errol’s work shifts change and we enjoy Sunday nights together, curled up with pizza and movies, a child on each lap. I eat bircher in our pretty kitchen while I watch the children talk through the fence to the little boy next door. We open our house to our friends and have a housewarming. It makes me want to fill this house with happy people always – the rooms of this cottage begging to be filled with life. To complete our life in the suburbs with a white picket fence we adopt a dog, she settles into our family a gentle friend with fur.
And while most of our life plans together don’t involve settling into the suburbs – our first month in the Humble Ivy makes me feel right about this season of our lives. We are happy here.