How a house becomes a home is a mysterious sort of magic

Our daughter says ‘goodbye house’, and it’s as comforting an end as we could hope for

Buying a house is hard; moving house is hell. But why?

Buying a house is hard; moving house is hell. But why?

 

The difficulties of moving house are well-known, but what about the emotional toll?

I have learned something recently.

Buying a house is hard; moving house is hell.

How is it so stressful? Why is it so stressful? It’s not just a practical matter of organisation, although this part might actually kill you. Trying your best to line all your ducks in a row, you quickly realise there are too many ducks. It comes as something of a shock to suddenly become aware of all these ducks in your life. So you focus on one duck, but as you squeeze the trigger you see that duck somehow morph into two ducks, now flying in opposite directions. Before you know it there are ducks everywhere. Huge flocks of angry ducks swarm all over you, pecking the flesh from your exhausted body. But it’s fine. If you just manage to get a few hours’ sleep, maybe the ducks will go away.

This is the only way I can accurately describe what it’s like moving house to another county with two young kids in tow.

The difficulties of moving house are well-known, but something discussed less often is the emotional toll. We were looking forward to finally getting in to our new home, and in the hectic days leading up to the move, that’s all we did: look forward. We didn’t really take the time to appreciate what we were leaving behind.

Invisible roots tie you to the place, and when it comes time to rip them up, it hurts more than you expect it to.

On the last day, as we packed the few remaining bits and pieces, it hit us hard. The physical connection to a place with so many happy memories is real and powerful. How a house becomes a home is a mysterious sort of magic. The warmth and safety you feel within it seems to transform the building itself. And without realising it, you are changed, too. Invisible roots tie you to the place, and when it comes time to rip them up, it hurts more than you expect it to.

On that last day, with no furniture or pictures on the walls, our voices echo through the rooms.

Would the echoes of our time here disappear when we shut the door for the last time?

When the new owners move in, what will they feel as they paint over our children’s height marked on the kitchen doorframe?

Will they find a lost piece of Lego behind a radiator and think of the kids who used to live here?

We’ll take our memories with us, and we’ll cherish them, but what happens to this old home when we leave?

Does it just become a house again?

We walk through the rooms, finishing the last of our double-checks; she follows behind, cheerily saying things like, “Goodbye room!”

We have our daughter with us. She is about to turn three and this home is the only one she has known. The first time we brought her back from the hospital we lay her down in the Moses basket on the sitting room floor. Her older brother got down on his hunkers and softly caressed her head, without saying a word. Now we walk through the rooms, finishing the last of our double-checks; she follows behind, cheerily saying things like, “Goodbye room!”

When we’re finished we close the front door behind us, lock it, put the key in an envelope and push it through the letter box. And that’s it. The soft thud of the key landing on the other side of the door is all it takes for this place to become a memory. Just like that, it’s no longer our home. Our daughter says, “Goodbye house”, and it’s as comforting an end as we could hope for.

From the familiar to the uncertain, we drive south. We used to have great neighbours; what will our new neighbours be like? Our little cul-de-sac used to be so quiet at night; what if our new street isn’t? We felt so safe in our old house; what if we don’t in our new one? These questions, and more questions like them, feed into the overall stress of moving house. The kids weren’t sad to leave the old house. Will they even remember it when they are older? We have given them the best start to life we could, and that old house played its part.

The kids are excited, and we are optimistic. It has only been a few weeks but already that strange magic is taking place. We’re getting to know this new house - which step creaks, which room has the best morning light, the noise of the boiler, the sound of rain on the kitchen skylight.

Already it’s feeling like home.

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