This month marks the end of an era – a very bittersweet moment for our family, as my parents move out of the family home. Yes it makes all the sense in the world; my parents are getting on in years and all four of us are grown up with our own families now, it make no sense for them to stay in a big house which requires lots of maintenance when the rooms are empty, except for when we visit. They are downsizing into a lovely modern unit, in a secure complex, just right for the two of them to spend their retiring years in. But still, I cant help but feel just a little “emo” at the thought of never going “home” again.
It’s the only house I’ve ever known, it was built the year I was born, my father physically helped the builders lay the foundation, plaster walls and tile the floors, and I lived there for the first 19 years of my life. My friends think it weird that I lived in the same house for my entire childhood, I think it’s sort of romantic in a Gone With the Wind kind of way – this house steeped in history and memories. I shared a room with my sister, and I would jump into her bed when I was scared at night, I think my preference for sleeping with the light on, is born from sharing a room with my sister who used to burn the midnight oil with her school work, while I was forced to stick to my bedtime curfew. To this day, our bedroom cupboards still bare the remnants of my childhood stickers and scribbles on the back of the bedroom door. Our house is set on a hill, and we would spend hours and hours sliding down the grassy bank on leftover bits of cardboard. My dad and brothers would mow the lawn, and my sister and I would have to rake up the grass and leaves. We would fight over who was going to be the “washer,” “drier” and “packer-away” of the dishes after dinner. I remember laying underneath the coffee table in the lounge, watching tv, and sitting around the breakfast nook, doing my homework while my mum cooked dinner. I’d ride bikes with my cousins in the back yard, and then later rollerskates. We’d play cricket, using the big black rubbish bin as the wicket, and in the summer we used to lay on the grass with our bodies lathered in Baby Oil, in an effort to catch a tan (before we realised the dangers of sun damage!). After my hidings, my mother used to send me to the toilet at the end of the passage to reflect on my bad behaviour, and if I remember correctly, she used to lock me in there! I used to spend hours singing and dancing in the yard, watching my reflection in the house windows – I was a dancer and seriously thought I was going to make it big, until I grew up and realised I had the flattest feet and the knockiest knees and Broadway was clearly not an option for me.
We would have dinner as a family every night, around the dining room table with the tv off – my two brothers and sister, my parents and I, a tradition that I have tried very hard to maintain with my own family. After dinner we would say our evening prayers, and we’d nudge each other under the table, because my parents expected us to pray spontaneously, and none of us ever wanted to! Our house was a thoroughfare for all our friends, our aunts and uncles and cousins and of course my visiting grandparents from Cape Town. My other granny lived with us and she was a gentle calming presence in our home, we all felt her absence when she died, I was in standard five at the time. I grew up in a noisy environment, if it wasn’t the kids running riot, it was the adults sitting around enjoying a cup of a coffee, reminiscing, or planning our next holiday. We went on holiday OFTEN. Both my parents were teachers so our school holidays were never dull or boring, we’d pack up, usually with our cousins and spend our summers at time share resorts. And if we happened to be home for the holidays, we’d help my mum bake and she’d let us lick the bowl or we’d walk to the local swimming pool and spend hours in the water. We have so many good memories in that house, and my children too have come to love Granny and Pa’s house. They look forward to our visits to Durban, sleeping in Granny’s bed and running around in the open spaces which us Joburg dwellers in our compact townhouses, are not used to.
It seems strange to think that another family will live in OUR house, they will redecorate and put their own personal touches and paint over all our memories. I hope that they will be as happy in that house, as we were. That the love and good times we shared will reverberate through those walls. My husband and I still haven’t found our dream home, and I guess my deep desire to buy a house and root my family deep into its foundations, stems from my own childhood in a house that was far more than just a house – it was a home. With its ugly carpets and blue bathroom tiles, it was the place I felt most safe, most secure, sheltered and loved. My wish is for my children to grow up and feel this way in their home, I want them to love coming home – even after they’ve flown the nest, I want them to know that our home, is still where the heart is.
28A, we will miss you.