Reflective

A Moving Story…

As I mull over the last 20 years, looking at the walls that have protected my entire reason for living and recalling the woodchip wallpaper that adorned each one, I find myself without any real affection for the house that became our home all those years ago. I do not find this in the least bit strange, however other people seem to.

For all of those well meaning souls out there, here I sit, laptop in lap.

Newly married and 7 months pregnant, I fell in love with a house. We had looked at so many around the Southdown area of Bath, each time we came away feeling totally depressed. So we widened our viewing area and looked at a cottage in Peasdown St John. Well, it was perfect. There was a long, rambling garden that I could imagine my children exploring in, the cottage oozed quirkiness. It completely grabbed me and so we put in an offer. To our delight, it was accepted. I don’t remember the ins and outs but, basically, it was ‘devalued’ by the bank. This meant that either the seller had to reduce their price or we’d have to come up with 3 grand extra as a deposit. It couldn’t be done and so we let it go. I’m telling you this so that you understand that this house was never the ‘love of my life’. It was a quick purchase as I was about to give birth and as such, we’ve been extremely lucky. But, from the beginning, my soul has never really been here. It stayed in the little cottage.

“It’s going to be quite emotional leaving here.”  

“I think I’ll shed a tear or two. Especially when I pack up my room!”

“Lots of good memories eh, Lise? It’s going to be a bit of a wrench isn’t it?”

No, I think, it isn’t. I have been ready to wrench myself away from here for 11 years now. To find a new place that suits me better, that can accommodate my need for anonymity. Wrench me away, I think.

With a cup of coffee in my hand, I gaze out of the kitchen window and a smile forms as I watch the chickens amongst the poppies and dandelions. They’re a fairly recent addition to the family and very welcome too. As my mind drifts, the image drifts too, into shadows of Harry and Gabe, toddling on the uneven lawn, kicking a ball or riding a tricycle. Then I can see a young Nige, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by a dozen kids. They’re all laughing fit to burst as he throws himself from one imaginary treasure island to another. We did throw some magnificent birthday parties for our boys. They are all etched into my memory like veins of gold, ready to travel with me wherever I go.

As I dwell on these birthdays and celebrations I cannot help but recall the down side to it all too. “Lots of good memories eh, Lise?” Yes, I think, but many more not so.

I had longed to be a mum and had high expectations of myself. I believed I would be Mother Earth, surrounded with babies and cats, permanently smiling. I would bake too –  soft, perfect sponge cakes that everyone would love. After a traumatic delivery (emergency caesarean after a 26 hour labour) I remember sitting in hospital thinking, I am never doing that again! But I knew I was going to. Harry was not going to be an only child and besides, I was going to be Mother Earth…

They used to call it the ‘Baby Blues’. It wasn’t blue though, it was a sort of messy grey. That was how I saw the world for, what, years. Words like ‘loneliness’, ‘isolation’, ‘boredom’ and ‘desperation’ floated around my head. I rocked back and forth for hours at a time, sometimes to get Harry to sleep, others to break the monotony of the day. Nige would get home at 6pm and take over for me while I slept. To say that I let myself go is an understatement. To say that this house felt like my prison is not.

Then, just over a year after Harry was born, I fell pregnant again.

By the time Gabe was born I did at least have a network of friends. I visited other people’s houses for coffee and even went out to the park occasionally for the day. With this new-found support I even passed my driving test. Suddenly I could leave not just the house, but the area! It was brilliant! Although I still fell in and out of depression, I felt as if I had a handle on it. Watching my boys together, playing, arguing, just being, was the best therapy. The house was coming together too. So, that was my few years of relative tranquility, feeling like a normal person. They were pretty happy times but, again, I carry them with me. Those memories of car journeys and days out with friends are not triggered by the house but by the people. I never wanted to be confined to the house again!

“I think I’ll shed a tear or two. Especially when I pack up my room!” 

We still have the same bed both boys were conceived in, both boys have been nursed in, comforted in and the same bed I was confined to when Gabe was about 3.

Coming up to Christmas I’d been battling with flu symptoms, upset tummy, everything it seemed. Nige had arranged for us to go on ‘The Santa Express’, in Minehead, where the boys would get to meet Santa after a short journey on a steam train. It promised to be a truly magical evening. I felt awful though. The car journey was horrific, it was bitingly cold outside when we got there and the complimentary sherry was like paint stripper. It was all a bit lame as I recall. On the way home I remember looking at the many lit up homes and thinking, why bother doing any of that? I think I was delirious but at that point I had no idea how seriously ill I was. In fact, I spent Christmas laid out on the sofa during the day and sweating at night. I had vivid hallucinations too where a glass roof would open above me, revealing a sort of guru who talked me through my pain. Beneath me was cracked, baked earth getting hotter and hotter. On New Years Eve I decided enough was enough. I went down to Boots. I stood at the pharmacy and said, “I’m not sure what’s wrong with me but I now have this,” lifted up my shirt to reveal a large red rash. The staff collectively took a step back, one saying, “You need to get yourself to A & E.” So that’s where I went.

I left Bath RUH shortly afterwards, diagnosed with Scarlet Fever. I then spent weeks in bed, on severe antibiotics. Over the next 2 years I lost all of my skin, underwent reflexology to get my internal organs working properly again and scared the shit out of my mum.

“It’s going to be quite emotional leaving here.”  

That I cannot deny. Emotions are everywhere and seep into you when you least expect it. Positive, negative, you get them all! So, yes, of course I’ll be emotional. I don’t know yet if that will take the form of a jump and a punch into the air or a cascade of tears. I’m betting it’ll be something in between.

I have only once shed a cascade of tears in this house (or any other) and that was about 11 years ago.

To spend a day gardening with the family, laughing and smiling in the sunshine is a wonderful thing. That is what we’d done and by 10 o’clock we were curled up on the sofa, about to watch a gripping thriller (‘Messiah’, with Ken Stott). The phone rang. The news was brief. My world fell apart.

All the wonderful memories of this house come from my boys. Watching them build their brotherhood bonds has been the most magical part of their childhood and my motherhood. Those memories can hide the previous ones of depression adequately and give strength to cope with anything. Anything, that is, except the loss of my brother. That cannot be hidden.

That is when I first wanted to move. To wrench myself away from the solid manifestation of my grief seemed to be the best way forward, the only way. I am glad I didn’t though, I’m glad we waited. Though often awful beyond compare, the last 11 years have seen me change quite dramatically. I can now deal with all my quirks and oddness, embrace them and turn them into positive energy. This is what I’m taking to our new home, along with inner tranquillity and an abundance of laughter.

 

 

Footnote: This was written in 2012, as we were about to move out of our family home to Bathampton after almost 20 years. Four years on (to the day) and I am a far more level and happy mother, wife and friend.

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