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 a house.
You refer to it, in emails to estate agents, as your “property.” You start to notice the cobwebs in the corners, and you 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… and then 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, and 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, at what angle you have to hold the dining room table to fit it through the doorframe, and where you put that special screwdriver that 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 is the dining room, where you sat with friends over long dinners, drank wine and whisky in front of the fire. There is one bedroom, where you were helped into your wedding dress; and there is the other, where you stood over your days-old son in his Moses basket, leaned in to hear him breathe. There is the kitchen, cosy and cluttered; pureed blueberry spattered on the wall and always, always, music playing. There is 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 cobwebs. I hope they keep the walls warm. I hope I remember where that screwdriver is.