Four years ago today I packed the last few remaining pieces of my life up into a gazillion plastic boxes and left the house I had owned for 23 years. I felt numb. Not sad, not angry, I just felt nothing. The build-up to this day was a long time coming. Trying to cling onto bricks and mortar on and off for over 20 years and here I was aged 43 … just me and my boys, wondering what the hell was I meant to do now.
I moved with the help of a man with a van. Martin I think his name was. And some of my family helped out of course, but I’d say I mostly did it on my own. My ex was thankfully long gone and out of harm’s way, and because I’d lived there for so long, I/we had accumulated a so much rubbish. Two sheds, a summer house and a loft full of stuff. Just stuff. Things we didn’t need, that I hadn’t seen for years, extravagant things he’d bought for himself that I ended up having to sell to be able to hold onto the house for just one more month.
(This is me four years ago today – a hot sweaty mess!)
But it wasn’t enough. I had to make sure I sold the house that month, otherwise the bank would have repossessed, so my hands were tied. Thankfully, the estate agent found a buyer in the nick of time and he got himself a bargain and I got myself a four-month stint living with Dad. (Although I should say, God bless Dad for letting us stay with him because it’s so true what they say, everyone is only one step away from finding themselves homeless.)
I bought my house aged 19, along with my (ex) husband, and we lived there until we divorced and he moved out. I slogged my guts out, working in London and rushing home for the baby, just so that I could afford to buy him out and stay there and provide security for Ben. That period (well, all my life come to think of it) was exhausting. Running Ben down to the childminders at 6am, running home to shower, running to the train station for the 90 minute commute, a full day of work … and then running home to the childminder at 7pm. Every single day. But I did it just because you do what you have to do as a single parent and five years later, I met Dexter’s dad. He moved in three months after that. In hindsight, it was all to do with manipulation and control but I was a divorced woman in love, afraid that I’d be on my own forever, so jumped at the chance of trying to make a relationship work. This time, I thought, this time it’ll work.
When I think back to the time I spent at my home, the first thing I remember is throwing a surprise anniversary party in the garden with my brother for our parents. I can still picture Mum’s face as she walked through the side gate to the garden, seeing the marquee and all her friends and family shouting, ‘SURPRISE!’ She burst into tears, and so did we.
I remember the cherry tree at the bottom of the garden that gave us so many delicious cherries that my eldest managed to sell some to the restaurant where he was doing his work experience. God I miss that tree!
And I remember my attempt at creating a vegetable plot … I just never really got round to planting anything.
I remember bringing Dexter home from the hospital, and having to stop at Mums on the way home because my family were dying to meet him, so much so they were stood on the drive waiting for us to drive around the corner. And then when we got home, I sat on the sofa just stroking his silky, soft brown hair and placed him into Ben’s arms where they just chilled with each other. It was beautiful.
So many beautiful memories.
I also remember my ex punching a hole in the underside of the stairs, and me having to hide it with one of Dexter’s drawings I had on display. The times I drank too much vodka just to numb the pain of existing, and the endless times I was so afraid, I took myself to bed so that I didn’t risk upsetting him. So many scary, sad, upsetting memories I still can’t bring myself to share.
So you see, when it came to throwing away or packing up my life for the past 23 years, my emotions were so mixed that I wasn’t sure how to feel … so I felt nothing at all. And I think that was probably for the best.
I live in a rented house now, and my life isn’t perfect, but it is wonderful in its own way. I rarely drink, we laugh a lot, my kids are happy and yeah, I’m a fat middle-aged woman but y’know what? There are a lot more worse things I can be and right now, as I look around at a home that isn’t mine, that I can’t decorate, knowing that I can never afford my own home again, I feel at peace. And that, my lovely internet friends, is priceless.