The last time I moved house was almost twenty years ago. I was fat and tired and sick and scared.
Ah, time; how you have so generously stood still for me!
Back then I was all those things because I was young and pregnant. Now I’m all those things because I’m middle-aged and hung-over.
Gwyneth and I had only been together a few months. In that time we’d accomplished, in a nutshell: three weeks living in London together, three weekends away, two epic arguments, one holiday to Bali, one dose of food poisoning and one conception.
The baby persisted in growing and growing inside me, inside my tiny flat above a shop in a suburb not far from Gwyneth’s four-bedroom Victorian semi. It was one night in that semi (where we still live now) where I eventually asked him, after weeks of building-up and bottling-out, if maybe, perhaps, I might, y’know…move in before the baby comes?
Him: Oh God, yeah. I assumed you would, ‘course.
Me: Ah. Ok. That’s a relief. When?
Him: Erm, dunno. Whenever you want.
Me: Ok. Because I’m six months pregnant, have excruciating sciatica in my back and am about to be unable to get up off the sofa. So I’m thinking maybe we should HURRY THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT.
Him: I’ll book a van.
Ah, the romance!
Sometimes you move on with your eyes only half-open, too scared (and tired) to look at what’s ahead.
I’d moved to the tiny flat after leaving my boyfriend and the terraced house we’d shared for a year. I loved that fella and I loved that house. Until I didn’t. On the day I moved out, we both sobbed liked mad, so much that my brother-in-law asked if we were sure we were doing the right thing. We thought so. Until the van arrived.
Sometimes you move on with your eyes open but the view is blurred with tears.
The house I think about the most is the one where I grew up and didn’t leave until I was eighteen. I was the last to move on. Mum went first, in a permanent, deathy way. Then my sister, to live with her boyfriend. Then Dad moved away to live with his new partner.
It was a strange year, the year I spent in the house alone. I moved into Mum and Dad’s bedroom for a while because it was the biggest room, but there were too many ghosts. Sleeping in the exact spot where I’d last seen her alive was…kinda insomniacical – yes, Imavinthat new word!
I drive by the house sometimes, when I’m back that way. Every time there’s a part of me which believes that if I walked in I’d find Mum still sitting there on the sofa, making a necklace or reading, fag on, telly on, eyes wide open and alive, alive, alive.
Oddly, I don’t remember the day I left the house for the last time. I was already at university when Dad organised the sale. Maybe that’s why a part of me still lives there, because the last time I saw it everything was still in place.
Sometimes you move on with your eyes shut tight so that you can hold on, in your head.
As I pack the boxes and sort the shit ready for this next big move, the ties to this house feel positively umbilical. I had my babies here. Well, not actually in the house (there weren’t enough barbiturates on offer), but this is the place where both babies first came home to not sleep. This is the place filled with twenty years of us.
Which is why I’m sure about moving. Walls have eyes and the ones in this house have seen too much of me. I need to find new walls, ones that can meet me for the first time, ones that I can live with and learn to love, ones that can watch on as I live and maybe even love again.
Sometimes you move on with your eyes wide open, a bit blurry for tears, but with just the teeniest hint of a twinkle.