My parents have sold their house and moved out. Not the home we all lived in as children – there were far too many of those. As army brats we moved around a lot. My parents bought, renovated and sold some stunning homes but we were only in them for a few years, and of course we had our fair share of army ‘quarters’ or basic brick boxes. And then we had two long term homes. Shore House where we spent our pre teen and teenage years, in beautiful Bosham. This was the last house we all lived in as a family before maturity (or lack of it!) scattered us to the four winds, careers, countries and relationships.
18 years ago my parents bought Home Farm House. I wasn’t there for the purchase or the move – but that’s pretty normal! Many’s the time we’ve come home for school holidays, half term or an exeat weekend to a new home! I well remember taking two school friends to Five Trees and spending much of the weekend throwing buckets of hot soapy water on a floor and chipping the plaster off to reveal the 16th Century flagstones beneath.
When I went to Boarding School for the first time the beautiful Hill House, where we were all so happy, was packed up and sold. I lost my leased horse, paddock, room to roam on Frensham Common where I learned to ride and ice skate. I lost my freedom, my childhood, my home in one fell swoop.
It was a few years before my parents bought Five Trees and I had some sense of belonging to a place again. There were only 9 months or so of exeat weekends at my cousins’ house but it was long enough for me to feel like a displaced person and for that to last lifelong.
It would be twenty years before I owned my childhood longed for horse. And 30 before I finally had the land and freedom I had craved ever since that early loss. But even with my own home and farm, animals and horses, losing the parental home has me feeling bereft.
In everyone’s lives there are essential rites of passage – adolescence, deaths, marriage, births, menopause, the sale of the family home, parental deaths. As my parents let go of that beautiful house, pack up their belongings, disseminate their possessions to charity shops and newly rented accommodation while they try and find their perfect new home, we are all feeling the momentousness of the move.
Home Farm House was a home – it was a lovely warm, welcoming house, with beautiful garden and outlook – the product my parents’ hard work. I have wept for its loss while hoping it brings great joy and happiness to its new owners. I was devastated not to be able to get back to the UK for a last hurrah with the whole family in situ together for the final time.
But now that the boxes are packed and everything my parents own is gone and I can see from afar that it is just a house. It is all that they have and all that they are that make it a home. A home embodies the energy of the people who inhabit it – it exhibits their souls. So though my parents have critical eyes and voice their judgements freely, from the love in their home, the sheen on the warm mahogany tables, gleaming floors and welcoming kitchen heart of the home, they demonstrate their warm and loving hearts beneath the masks they have adopted and worn so well.
Those hearts and collection of furniture, paintings and household items go with them. We will always have a home away from home wherever they are, as long as they live.
Those feelings of devastating loss are just a practice run for when they die. It is impossible to imagine the hole they will leave in our lives. Not to have them on the planet anymore – knowing us, loving us, judging us, correcting us, critiquing us, sending us parcels, treating us and our children to new clothes, trips, toys etc.
As much as a home is place of safety and rest for the heart, it is the hearts of the inhabitants that makes a house a home.