I slump; slowly, into the sofa.
It’s not the physical exhaustion of packing that’s getting to me. I can handle placing crap into a box. It’s the crap which is escaping that I’m struggling to deal with.
They say moving home is stressful, but I hadn’t bargained for the emotions to come out faster than I could tape them shut. The initial euphoria when the deal was made was wonderful. My agent had negotiated the owner down on the place I wanted to buy, and the people buying mine, up. I wasn’t trying to be greedy. There was a slim margin within which I could afford this move; if the difference between the two properties wasn’t close enough I’d be staying put. Within the course of the day the difference had shrunk by 15k – it was a miracle, my dream was going to come true. I’d own a house, my very own house, one with more bedrooms than tenants. The excitement distracted me from other stresses in my life. I had a project to focus on and I love a project. Within two hours of the offer being accepted I was rifling through the understairs cupboard throwing stuff out, giving it away, selling it where I could.
Yet 24 hours later, here I am, slumped on the sofa. Sitting in my son’s bedroom, the one he never sleeps in, as the memories wash over me.
Reality has hit me with its full force. In a few weeks time I’ll be moving home. Leaving the place I’ve lived for almost seven years. Leaving the home where I became a wife, a mother and a divorcee. I’ve seen more in those years than I’d have expected to experience in a lifetime. Before every viewing, I scrubbed the place from top to bottom. Was I trying to remove the tainted memories? Now, as I prepare to leave, they are sneaking out of the woodwork – the good, the bad and the ugly. Will I forget them when I’m gone, I wonder?
Maybe I should show you round, lest I forget.
The front door
The first time my husband and I entered this home together I insisted he carry me over the threshold. We were giggling – loves young dream. A few months later we spent hours stripping off fifty years worth of paint from that door. Unearthing layers of blues, greens and black, before we gave it our own layer of deep purple. Three years later I exited through that door in the middle of the night, clutching our baby to my chest, scared for our safety as my then husband entered another psychosis. It’s a new front door now. The other one was smashed down by the police last year after a false alarm over the safety of my son and I. It’s much more energy efficient, the last one let in an awful draught.
The main bedroom
I was supposed to sign the papers to buy the flat at the same time that my ex suffered his first full blown psychosis while overseas. I faltered briefly, unsure what to do. I couldn’t keep going when everything else felt frozen – could I? Turns out, that’s exactly what I had to do. I moved in alone and found a flatmate to help with the mortgage. In the first few weeks I would wake in the morning and wonder where I was. Slowly the grim reality of my ex’s situation would dawn on me, I took no joy in my new home. This was the start of getting through, rather than living. Seven years later, apart from the odd moment, I’m not sure that’s changed.
Six months and a wedding later, an interlude of good times was ushered in. Not perfect, but not half bad either. I smirk as I remember the evening we laughed so much in bed that the neighbours banged on the wall to get us to, “shut the fuck up”. The (many) times we made love (before the baby). Morning sex was my favourite.
The miscarriage brought the good times to an abrupt end. That night of saying goodbye to my first born as I lay there while the pain got stronger, and the blood got heavier. The next morning, after returning from the hospital, I curled up in that same bed, barely able to breath as the contractions continued their job and I pushed out the placenta. The pain and hurt a stark contrast to the anticipation I experienced almost one year to the day later, lying in bed waiting for the contractions to get stronger until I knew it was time, now I would become a mother with a child.
Through the crumbling of my marriage and the divorce I still enjoyed many times with my son in that room. Lazy maternity leave mornings as the early summer sun filtered through the curtains and bathed us both in an orange glow. More recently, the nights where I have snuggled up against my son’s sleeping body, and the many mornings with him jumping all over me.
The lounge was the centre of our home. We ate so many delicious meals here, usually cooked by him, the ex. We had parties; drinking and chatting till late. Murder mystery dinners all dressed up for fun. Evenings snuggled up on the sofa until the flatmate returned. In amongst these good memories and the bad, I remember the damn right horrendous. The times I was on my knees screaming; begging for something to change. I could take no more. Yet there I was:
Two days later;
Two weeks later;
Two months later;
Two years later;
Apparently there’s a word for what he was doing – gaslighting.
The lounge, so beautiful and clean now, not like the time before my son was born when I scrubbed the place top to bottom and worried about what the twenty year old thread bare carpet would say to the social worker who was coming to assess us. Were we safe to be parents? Like everyone else, he was quickly convinced by my husbands amazing ability to lie.
Then there was the time I had to go to hospital fearful my waters had broken as I screamed and cried into the newly carpeted floor, only to be told I’d probably just wet myself. The times I would position myself between him and the door, or hide the knives, “just incase”. The night the laptop flew through the air. Memories I’d rather forget.
The Second Bedroom
It seems somewhat ironic that this room, the one I’ve spent so little time in, is the one with such strong memories. The place where all these feelings started to unravel as I tried to pack them away with the chipped china and broken toys.
For around two years this room was out of bounds, rented out to supplement our income. The room now intended for my son is rarely slept in unless a friend is visiting (or more recently paying guests). In the first few weeks of owning this place I was in there on my hands and knees, sanding down the floorboards – by HAND. Fast forward a couple of years and there I was slumped in front of a luke warm radiator trying to heat up my soul. My mum came in, “don’t sit here alone, come and sit downstairs with us” she urged. “I’m not alone” I answered as I rubbed my 30+ week pregnant belly. The situation with my husband was far worse by then, I needed space from the mayhem.
I managed to compartmentalise things in those early days after my son’s birth. When he was away at work I could enjoy myself. In that room I’d so lovingly decorated, I’d sing to my son and dance around the room as he sat in his bright, bouncy chair giggling in delight. I’d go out for long summer walks and days of smiles with new friends. My son and I had some wonderful times in those early months, his dad just didn’t want to join us.
Eventually this room housed my son and I. My then husband’s snoring and coming to bed late, paired with the hourly wake up calls from my little one were sending me into a sleep deprived haze of craziness. I asked him to sleep on the futon in the other room. He refused. So instead I placed the mattress on the floor, fearful my son would fall out, and in we both crawled. It became our refuge for the next few weeks.
I’ll miss the garden the most. My brother’s words when I moved in will always make me smile, “it’s an oversized car parking space with no car access.” I don’t have a car but I do have get up and go. Eventually the garden was transformed. The evenings I’ve spent there with my son are some of the nicest I’ve had. Laying out obstacle courses. Jumping in the paddling pool together. Lying on the grass and staring up at the sky. The fun times since the divorce, when friends have stayed over and we’ve drunk whilst the kids run wild. Or that time my son locked himself in the house with me and a friend outside. My tears of fright turned to laughter as I hid the beer bottles from the police for fear of “giving the wrong impression”. Who was I trying to kid, they’ve practically got the place on speed dial.
He’s tried to displace even those memories though. Just a few weeks back my ex made an unexpected visit. Somehow managing to get into the block and “letting himself” into the garden – my garden. There he sat, bouncing that bloody basketball, taking pot shots at the toilet window just to remind me he was still there; he still had the power to make things come tumbling down. Soon he won’t though.
It’s emotional packing up these memories with the books, clothes and plates. Things I haven’t allowed myself to remember coming back to the fore; things I wish I’d remembered crawling out of the woodwork. I never realised how emotional it would be leaving this house, this home, but I’m ready. I’m ready to move to a place where the neighbours don’t remember the screams, or know the story. I’m ready to make new memories. And most importantly I’m ready to create that family I’ve always dreamed of.