Home is where the heart is

Today is the day. After 29 years this is the very last day I will ever be or be able to lay eyes on the property that I grew up on. The place that watched me grow, the place that kept all of my secrets. My parents & I moved in here on my eighth birthday. It’s 80 acres of country paradise in the Adelaide Hills. And today I sit here alone on the hardwood floors of the empty house that I grew up in reflecting on it all.

My first ever memory of coming here was when I was seven. I was with my mum and we’d come to look at the house. I think by this point my parents must have been pretty serious about buying it because the owner of the house was showing my mum around. I remember her name was Marion because that was my mums name too. We were looking in one of the bedrooms which had a big bed in it with a purple bedspread and I jumped on it (and got told off by my mum). That room later became my bedroom.

The next thing I knew it was my birthday and we were moving in. I remember unpacking a box of my mums “Mills and Boon” novels and placing them on a little shelf in the lounge room. When mum noticed she quickly told me they couldn’t go there. Haha! Little did I know they were the then equivelent of Fifty Shades of Grey. It was not the done thing to have these things displayed for all to see. Apparently.

The very next day my mum was booked to go in to hospital for a hysterectomy. The only thing I really understood about this was that it meant that I would never get a sibling. Something I wanted so badly then. Actually still to this day I feel a bit robbed in that area.

It was quite an overwhelming time for me. The house was huge in comparison to what we previously lived in. My parents room was at the opposite end of the house to mine. While mum was in hospital my dad slept in the room next to mine because I was too scared to sleep at that end of the house alone. Once my parents moved to the other end of the house mum got a baby monitor so I could call out if I needed her.

We’d moved in during the two week school holidays so when school went back I had to start at the local school. The teacher I was meant to get was on long service leave for that term so we had the grumpiest, scariest old lady for a relief teacher. I hated every minute of those first few months at school. But come home time and we’d driven in to our driveway I felt care free. I would go inside and grab a snack then go and see my horse and explore the paddocks.

We got cows and baled hay. This was something that was completely new to us! My dad had to go away to work a lot so mum and I had to get all the hay bales put in the big hay shed. I was too small to lift the hay bales so I got the job of driving the car around the paddock while mum put the bales in the trailer. I was eight!! It was seriously one of the most fun times of my life!

One of the first things dad did when we moved in was to pave a roundabout in front of the house. I can still remember the summer nights during day light saving when dad would be paving and I would scoot around on the ride on lawn mower with its cute little trailer and load up pavers for dad and deliver them to him.

When I was 16 I left school and started going to business college in the city. It was a long drive so I moved in to a little flat attached to my Opa’s house. There was a bus stop right outside that took me to the city each day. I would drive back home every Friday night and go back to my little flat on a Sunday night. After college I got a job so I continued to live in the flat during the week and went back home on the weekends. If I was ever sick or had the day off I always went home. I remember taking a sick day from work once because I was really unwell but I still drove myself up there just to be in the comfort of home.

Two years later I was married! We actually had our wedding reception in the garden at home. We had a huge marquee that held over 400 hundred guests. For the first year we lived in my cute little flat. Sadly though my Opa was suffering from dementia and became quite a difficult landlord. He would not remember me paying rent so he would get upset because he thought I hadn’t paid it. Bless him, he had no control over it but it got to the point where we had to move out. We were young and broke so up to my parents we went! A few years after my parents bought the place my dad did a demolition job at the kindy I used to go to, so he had the kindy building put on a truck and delivered to his house!! They ended up attaching it to their house. There was a big carport that divided the two dwellings. So in to my old kindy we moved. It had two bedrooms, a kitchen, dine, bathroom and massive living area. Much bigger than our little flat. It was only meant to be temporary. But temporary turned in to seven years!!!

Less than two years after we moved in to the ‘kindy’ I gave birth to our first son, Jack. He sadly died shortly after he was born. There are no words to describe what it is like to go through that or to live with the aftermath. One thing I know though, is that property held such an enormous space for me to grieve. There were nights I couldn’t sleep and I would go outside in the middle of the night and look up at the stars. Searching for some comfort or answers. There were days when I would walk so far in to the middle of nowhere and scream and cry. Because I needed to, and home held that physical and emotional space for me to do so.

On what would have been my first Mothers Day I woke up to my husband and my parents building a special garden for me. We called it Jacks garden. It was a beautiful inclosed paved area with a water fountain with an angel on top. Some of my aunties bought some roses for the garden. It was absolutely beautiful. I spent so much time in there. We all did. Thankfully I was able to take the fountain out and take it with us.

We went on to have our next two children while living there. Isla and Cashius. When Isla was a baby we purchased a block of land in another town in the hills about 15 minutes away and when Cash was one we had built our first house and moved in to it.

Three years later we sold that house and bought another to renovate, so while we were renovating we moved back to ‘the kindy’. This time with another child, Stella. We stayed there for a year. A few months after moving back home we got the surprise of our lives when we found out I was pregnant with Chad!! That was about eight years ago now.

We were just in to our own home again before Chad came along. It wasn’t long after I had Chad that I noticed my mum wasn’t quite herself. She would have been 59 when I first started to suspect she was having memory problems. It was very mild and no-one else would have picked up on it. Within 2 years mum was at the point where she could no longer run the office of my dads business, cook or even remember to clean the house. At this point I started going up twice a week to take care of all that she couldn’t. We had to take her to the Dr and eventually a specialist where it was confirmed that she had early onset Alzheimers. I was devastated.

My parents also owned another home a few hours away by the beach which they had always planned to retire to. So I knew eventually there would come a time that the family home would go. After mums diagnosis is when dad and I decided it was time to put the house on the market. Dad had a lot on his plate running a full time business and now mum, so the property on top of that was just too much.

So just over 2 and a half years ago we got the house ready to go on the market. Even sitting in here now thinking about it, I don’t know how I functioned or got done what I did. I was a full time mum to four in the mornings and evenings, but during the day I was a daughter on a mission. I still remember the day I spent washing over 40 windows front and back and getting the house photo ready. It was the longest day. I think I got home at about 8pm and Ben was out with the kids. That night was the first and last time I ever consumed an entire bottle of wine to myself. I don’t recommend it. I just wanted all the thoughts and feelings to go away. Believe me I had a completely different set of thoughts and feelings that I wanted to go away the next morning!! haha!

The next 2 and a half years were spent keeping the house ‘inspection ready’. I cooked, cleaned, washed, ran the office and sorted and packed up my parents house. I feel like during that time I’ve re-lived every memory of my entire life. It’s been insanely hard and therapeutic at the same time. One of the hardest parts for me was having a MASSIVE garage sale and selling off a lot of my mums stuff. The property they lived on had lots of storage and my mum had done lots of collecting. The house they have at the beach is already full so 95% of it had to go. I was riddled with guilt. Even though my dad told me to get rid of it all and my mum seriously wouldn’t have a clue that it was hers to begin with anyway. I found that incredibly difficult to do.

After two years of waiting on paper work, my mum was finally assessed the day before her 65th birthday and approved for care under the NDIS scheme. This meant mum could have a carer with her while my dad was at work. Once this was approved I suggested to my dad that maybe it was time to move off the property full time and move to the beach house while he gets mums care set up. This way they wouldn’t have to switch carers once the property sold. So at Christmas time my parents moved to the beach house full time. In March of this year we hired a new realestate agent. Within 2 months the property was finally under contract, funnily enough to a man named Tony. That’s my dads name too!

Every time I’ve come here over the past few months something else is gone. The lounge, the dining table. Something big, and it takes my breath away. The hardest thing for me to see empty was my mums bedroom. Although the bedroom suite has been taken to their new house there was something comforting to me to walk in to my mums bedroom and see it all still there. It was still the same as it was when I was young and would sit on mums bed and chat with her in the mornings before school. Or when my dad was working away she would let me sleep with her and we would stay up late watching ‘Murder She Wrote’ or ‘To The Manner Born’. It’s amazing how four walls can hold so many memories.

So today is the day. The day I’ve come here completely alone. And as always this place is here to hold the space for me to remember, smile and cry. I’ve come to say goodbye. As I walk through and take a moment in every room to stop and remember, and as crazy as it sounds to talk to each room. To thank it for all that’s it done for me, my family and friends and for what it’s yet to do for the family that will soon call it home. I grew here, I became a wife here, I became a mother here, and I grieved here.

Home is where the heart is, and this place will always have a piece of my heart.

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