Friday, January 21, 2005

How I feel about moving house

This is a story I wrote a few months ago for my former school's literature competition. (I won it!)


The worst part about open homes is not the tidying-up. It’s not the fact that you’re being kicked out unceremoniously for half an hour. It’s when you come back before it has finished and sit waiting outside in the car and watch people walking brazenly into your home as if it were just a house, wandering around checking out your wardrobe and flicking their eyes over your bookshelves, criticising your wallpaper and letting their kids play on your bars. You didn’t know that seeing it would make your stomach clench like this.

It makes you think about how much you love your house. There is something about it; you don’t know if it’s just because you’ve been there forever or if there really is something magical and safe and alive about it. And the memories flash through your mind like a slideshow. Fragmented orange light through the leaves of the hideaway; daisy chains in the long grass; red currant picking of a summer evening; tall, personable corn dominating the vegetables; hanging upside down off the bars with your head touching the grass; violets at the bottom of the garden; leaving gifts for the fairies under the Halswell Quarry stone; plum blossom and daffodils; hot potatoes in tin foil and ash; tennis against the red brick wall; screams through the sprinkler.

And then there was the huddling around the fire with marshmallows; the candlelight games of Snap when the power failed; lying on your stomach gazing at the flames and feeling like you couldn’t be more comfortable if this was Buckingham Palace and you were the Queen; the sprints up the stairs in the freezing cold with two extra blankets; Mum’s lemon and honey drinks when you’re dying of a runny nose.

Still more images attack you, and you can’t get up, smile, and think about something else. Getting up at 6:00 on your birthday and groping around in the dark for your presents; waking up your teenage sister at 6:15 to say thank you; being sick and lying on the couch looking through the window at the mountain beech leaves and the patterns they make with the clouds and feeling like you’re the most special person in the world; the way you come down the stairs and open the door and are suddenly hit with the smell of the roast chicken or bacon or whatever it is that’s for dinner; the house full of people and noises and smells and laughter at Christmas; songs in the new-lounge with everyone playing a different kind of instrument or making do on a tin whistle; bookshelves exploding with every kind of book; your sisters and brothers coming home and you being so excited to see them come and so miserable when they leave; returning from holidays in the old blue van and the house being so pleasingly familiar and solid.

No house can ever compare. Suddenly it feels like leaving the house will be like betraying your best friend. You’ll drive past in the future and everything about the house will say, ‘I’m not yours anymore. You have no right to look at me.’ They’ll cut down the deformed silver birch that Dad annually mangled and install a second bathroom with tasteful wallpaper, or they’ll dig up the vegetable garden, filling it up with manageable concrete, and they’ll transform the kitchen into a symphony of stainless steel. You hope the dodgy gutter falls on their fat heads. You hope they freeze upstairs in winter. You hope the roof leaks on their beds. You hope the mice plague them.

You never want to leave.

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