The House that Built Us

Moving on often means reflecting on where you've been. Emma Baines-Dinning talks about leaving behind the house that made her.

It’s funny how you view things right before you’re about to leave them.

It’s as if they make you notice them again, like everything is renewed somehow. Fresher. Clearer. Except it’s nothing more than a little trick the mind plays to convince you into staying, because leaving a place behind, even when you’re ready to go, is hard.

Painful, truth be told.

Change always is, especially when your natural instinct is to resist it. And once you’ve committed to being on that path, you can’t circle back.

Every walk into town from our house in the days leading up to leaving it, made my senses prickle; smells I’d long since stopped smelling; the occasional summery waft of manure, the heady scent of damp logs on a stomp through the woods. Catching sight of pretty buildings I’d stopped noticing, their angles, the way the sunlight catches them. The way the sight of the church spires and the sound of the bells remind me of the village my grandparents lived in. Every corner turned revealed another forgotten layer of itself to me.

That town and everything about it had all become so comfortingly familiar without me even realising it.

DSC_0166I had made it my home and yet I’d never fully given it my heart, until the prospect of embarking into the total unknown made me want to throw myself down on the pavement, pledge my undying love for it, and stay there forever.

Sorry I ever said I wanted to go, I didn’t mean it.

*

‘I feel so content right now,’ I’d remarked to my best friend on the walk back from a boozy dinner at our favourite pub, the early evening sun warming my bones, our husbands catching us up. The tug on my heart that everything should stay just as it was stronger than ever, because the dance of familiarity is comfortable and effortless.

It had been the weekend that marked the end of an era, and our very best friends had come to stay for one last hurrah.

Waving them off on the Sunday afternoon felt as easy as all the other times we had stood outside our front door and hugged out a goodbye, except her arms tightened a little more than usual and so did mine. No damp shoulders though, because nothing about that weekend felt like a goodbye.

It seemed incomprehensible to me that that’d be the final memory we’d make with them there. They had become as much a part of the fabric of the place as we had.

‘Bye, House,’ she said in a small voice as she stepped out the door for the very last time.

*

We watched the removal men ferry boxes out to the lorry, methodically stacking and slotting them in place like a giant game of real life Tetris until, eventually, it was just us left.

I found myself mentally taking note of everything that made loving it hard at times, because it wasn’t always an easy house to love. Even though it was our home, its edges were definitely frayed.

The painted, but severely chipped and bare floorboards upstairs, the way they felt under my feet first thing.

The broken, precarious step into the dining room; the way every toddler who ever visited discovered the pieces of laminate flooring my late father-in-law tried to fix down in vain came free in one swift yank.

I ran my hands over the bare wall down the stairs, committed the feel of its rough, ugly, uneven texture to memory. The wall we meticulously peeled away the decades of wallpaper from; each layer revealing a little more of the house’s history and its previous inhabitants’. So much of our own history is held between those old, tired walls. And the part of the house I had always hated I realised I would actually miss, but only because where we were heading I wouldn’t know at all. That story is yet to unfold.

I wanted to absorb every last imperfect inch of it, because when it came down to it, leaving unsettled me far more than I expected it too, and exactly the amount it should. That’s the point, I think.

Yes. Bye, House, I thought to myself as I watched it get smaller in my rear view mirror, tears dripping off my chin.

Because OOF.

This is the house that built us.


Emma Baines-Dinning | @TheInkSlinger86