I think a house is a not a matter of walls, rooms and furniture. It’s a mixture of the feelings and memories made while living in it, things that have made us grow and make choices, things that do not need movers and containers, things that move with us and within us and give us the desire to feel at home anywhere in the world. At least that’s how it is for me! Here is my reflection on changing home.
It is probably being at the threshold of a new move and with the sleepless nights spent thinking about all there is to do, the anxiety attacks at the idea of starting all over again, the thought that in four months one door will close only for another one to open more than 9,000 km away, and that this time, the door is one to our first real home (one we bought). These are the things that make me think about home and the mix of feelings connected with it.
Six homes in 15 years and the seventh on the horizon. Some people may find me an amateur, but I think, it’s not too bad. Six houses where I left a piece of my heart not so much for the house, but for the time we spent living there, for the memories made there, which, of course, I will always carry with me, but that when I moved I also automatically put in the past.
Each house saw us at different times of our lives and at the same time, it was a reflection of an era, and of the way we were…
In our first house in Paris, we were a young couple with lots of dreams. That house is linked to the pregnancy of our first baby, as my belly grew quietly and I looked out on the rooftops of Paris, the home of sleepless nights, of feedings and diapers, Federica’s first smiles, her first meals with food spat everywhere. That tiny house, with its small bathroom and its kitchen that seemed tailor-made to eat in two. We quickly moved out of that little apartment. I still remember the lunch at the Indian restaurant and the truck that started moving towards Normandy, Federica smiling happily from the stroller, she who earned a little independence in the move, since she had her first room in the new house.
And then there was Normandy, with our beautiful apartment in the old Vernon, a tiny street with a glimpse of the old cathedral, our rooms under the roof, the IKEA kitchen that took forever to assemble, while we sat on the floor with our pizzas and our friend Rainer who came to help us…It was the home of Federica’s first candles, her first birthday, then the birth of Chiara, and then Camilla, a home increasingly full of toys and children, year after year, until we really felt tired of the little space and of the clothes horse always open and us stumbling on a Lego piece every few steps….
That time we decided to make the move ourselves with the help of some kind friends. We thought it would be easy, we did not have so many things… How you underestimate the ability to accumulate quickly, especially when in three years, we had gone from three to five in the family! But the prize was a great, big house, a big garden with two swings ready to use and again a number of years of accumulated memories … More candles, parties, fights, tough times, departures on holiday and returns with the little ones running up the stairs to see if the Playmobil were still there in the playroom, the last Christmas with my Dad who spent half the afternoon assembling the toys for his grandchildren and the grandchildren playing merrily… The house of the first homework, me chasing Federica who refused to do it, the house whose garden we cultivated for a while with passion, and the peach trees that became my nightmare in late summer… The home of Camilla’s first words, Chiara’s great speeches, Federica’s first poems, the endless dinners with a bottle and laughter, when we stayed up late making future plans with friends.
Also the house of big decisions, of the why and how to go to Japan, make that leap that had been in our minds for years…and then here we go, the container parked in front of the house, which in a moment was empty and I with tears in my eyes closing the door and asking myself if we were crazy to embark on the Japanese adventure …
And then Ichibancho 18-1, with the keeper always a little tipsy, intrigued by this family of gaijin (foreigners), especially the 3-year-old blonde who shook his hand every day with a laugh. No more garden with peach trees, but a fascinating world out the window and the house of a thousand technologies, all in one cabinet, the tub that fills by itself and speaks. Also here, memory after memory, Camilla’s first day of kindergarten, Chiara’s first grade, Federica’s bitter disappointment in front of the obtuseness of a teacher, the piano lessons with Kazuko and Michiko, the high towers of Kapla in the living room, weekend skiing in Nozawa Onsen, relaxing days in our chalet at the foot of Mount Fuji, the rasta dreadlocks of Antoine, our favorite baby-sitter and the wondrous eyes of Camille, the other favorite baby-sitter. The “discussions” with the neighbors who were little tolerant of any noise, long talks over coffee with my friends, cooking classes to Japanese neatly sitting around the counter of my kitchen, fascinated by my homemade noodles, Italian lessons to my dear students around the dining room table, the BBC in the morning at breakfast before rushing to school by bike and the long nights at the table waiting for more and more Japanese…and then here it’s time again to close the door, the move accurate and fast, so fast that it hurt, and did not give me time to really say goodbye.
Many were the tears in front of the closing door, although we knew that another would open in a new country, India! And here we are again, a huge house, a crazy heat, a pool to refresh us, the spaces so large that even with all the will of the world will never be filled, a house that reminds us a bit of Japan with a little Zen garden in the middle of the living room topped by a giant glass… A new house that has seen the birth of beautiful friendships, my daughters growing, moments of joy and nights by candlelight around the pool, nights of pouring rain and water that seemed to come from nowhere, moments of joy between laughter and a piano lesson, moments of despair when you feel you’re in a difficult country, you’re afraid you won’t make it, hard times to decide whether to close a door and move again.
A new container, a return to Europe, to France, to the beautiful Parisian suburbs, a new place in a known country, many doubts and fears as always, and finally our first real home, the one we have chosen and restored just as we like, certainly taking cues from all the others, the house that took hours of sleep to decide what to do, buy, change …
And we finally entered it on December 24th, our first night in the new house, our house, the fireplace and a quickly decorated tree, a Christmas lunch organized between a box and another, the house of the difficult return to Europe. After living in Asia with all that kindness, it is not easy to come back to Earth! The house of the meet up with friends we had left a few years before, the house where I threw myself fully into my adventure of clothes. The parties, the candles, our 40 years, and Federica growing into adolescence, followed close behind by Chiara, and Camilla, with her little girl dreams, she who has never felt good here, where she actually felt really bad, failing to find her points of reference in a new world that did not suit her at all. And the arrival into the family of our beautiful kitten that in a short time made our garden her hunting ground and my bed her comfortable space to sleep!
And here I am, a little over two years later, to organize a new move, to think of another door that will close, of all that these walls have seen and heard, all that we bring with us to new home, wondering how it will be, if I’ll like it, if it’ll give me what the others have… I think so, because the real home I take with me inside. The house I do it, I undo it, always the same, always a bit different, always filled with 15 years of life, dreams, happiness and love…