I believe that moving house to a man is like childbirth to a woman. Well, for me it is. The pain, however intense, is soon forgotten until the next time.
Di and I have been together for nearly nine years and during that time we have moved 5 times for varying reasons, somehow gathering more stuff along the way to the point that we even have a storage facility to keep goodness knows what all.
For the past three years we have had an addition to our family which has enriched our lives enormously. A girl and her two brothers, triplets no less, stay at the Southern Cross boarding house as weekly boarders and come to us over weekends. It has worked so well – Aidan got 2 brothers and Emily got a sister and they all get on together – one big happy family, most of the time.
A couple of years ago, Di decided to upgrade our housing facility and she sold our beautiful house and bought an old, rather dodgy looking house to renovate so it would meet the needs of our family – 2 adults, 2 teenage girls and 3 teenage boys. This was a challenging task but Di was determined.
To cut a long story short, with the help of a really patient builder, the house was renovated and it became the home we really wanted. Close to the school, close to the stables, close to town and still surrounded by the beauty of a Wildlife Estate. Life was looking great. Our little safari business was growing, we had already got an office in town and Di had a short list of people to interview for the position of tour consultant.
COVID-19 landed on our doorstep and all our dreams were shattered - but were they really?
As the days went by and things grew from bad to worse Di decided that we had to sell our home. Many tears were shed when the decision had been made and when the deal was done many more were shed, this time amidst the feelings of relief. The people who bought the house were absolutely amazing. We have still not even seen them but the way the deal went down displayed a great sense of compassion. They must have known we were desperate but they never tried to bargain us down, and yesterday, on Di’s birthday they sent us a beautiful e-mail which had us once again in tears.
On Wednesday, the day before Di’s birthday, the furniture truck arrived at 08h00 and started loading. I was taking the smaller stuff to the new house in our old Landrover, one trip after the other, my heart and my muscles aching. After it was all done I returned alone to the house we were vacating. The removal company had long gone and the house that Di had built and that was going to be our home stood empty. I walked slowly from one vacant room to the other seeing the memories and saying goodbye to the dreams, my footsteps echoing like a solemn drum beat at some hero’s funeral. As I was leaving, a lone male giraffe stood looking down on me, watching me as I walked away from another chapter of my life.
The furniture was off loaded at the new place and there our next chapter began. The removal guys were truly amazing and they drove away with a friendly wave leaving us to survey the chaos. We were very lucky to have found this place, but at the risk of sounding like I am complaining, there is no way this mountain of stuff was ever going to fit into this house. I picked my way carefully from one room to the next and like so many times in the past I saw that the removal guys had put the heavy stuff – washing machine, fridge x 2, dining room table, office desk x 2, lounge suite, etc, where they should go, obviously directed by Di. The kids were in their rooms sorting out their living space and Di was sitting gazing at this house wondering how to make it a home. I collapsed exhausted on the couch, waiting for the onset of the labour pains.
As gently as the purr of a midwife I heard it – “my love, don’t you think the TV will be better over there”?
Labour has started. I knew the pain that was about to begin: Di commanding me to “push harder”, me grunting and taking deep breaths in between every agonising push, until hours later I collapse in a sweating heap. Di smiles and announces that at last it is just as she wants it – for now.
I think the TV is perfect just where it is but I move it to where Di thinks it will be better. I push the huge heavy lounge suite into a different position to accommodate the new position the TV now finds itself in. I push the coffee table out of the way, I move the wooden giraffe, the only thing in the house taller than me, looking down with the same sympathetic expression its live cousin bestowed upon me as I walked forlornly from that other place so long ago.
Then it was the enormous double door fridge that would definitely be better on the other side of the kitchen. “Push harder” purred the midwife as I beckoned more from my broken body. Finally the fridge found itself coaxed into a corner that no mathematician other than my lovely partner would have ever tried to fit it in.
The final hurdle arrived. “I think the washing machine should be outside in the courtyard. We could build a little shelter around it to protect it from the rain, what do you think?” For those you don’t yet understand this question, no, I was not really being asked my opinion. What do I think? Really? So instead, I gave that defeated grin and agreed, yes, that would be an excellent idea - to carry an unbelievably heavy piece of equipment the distance of a 4 bedroomed house and put it outside in the courtyard. I have no idea how Di, Emily and myself managed to achieve that, but we did and beaming with pride I staggered back to the couch.
A mere 5 minutes went by and Di announced that there is no way the washing machine can be outside in the sun, it must come back inside. Oh shit, it’s twins!! A grueling 20 minutes of labour (of love) and one final push and the overweight washing machine was back inside and home was born.
The next day was Di’s birthday and some friends came over and brought a cake. We all sat on the veranda surrounded by the things that still have nowhere to go. The kids played and laughed and when we finally dragged our weary bodies into bed, Di looked at me and said “I really like this place, I think we are going to be happy here” and I knew then what made a home.
Wherever I go with my little family, for whatever reason, I will always have a home. The receptacle in which we find ourselves, whatever it may be, is not a home. It is the love, the caring, the support and the hope that each one of us carries in our heart that brings wherever we are to life and makes the house a home.