I think we simply outgrew it, or maybe it outgrew us.
Anura and I purchased the house off the plan and it was completed one week prior to our wedding in 1987. We moved in, raised three children there, had countless pets (many buried in the back garden), entertained lots of our friends and relatives, we took pride in the garden and house and worked really hard at maintaining it. But this week we say a final goodbye to our house in Calwell, and it seems appropriate to take a few minutes to reflect on the impact that this house that we have called home for so long has had on us all.
I thought I would be very sad to say goodbye, but what I have realised very recently is that even though this house holds so many memories, it is no longer our home. I am not sure who moved on first – us or the house. I think we simply outgrew it, or maybe it outgrew us. Perhaps this happened before we left to live in our wonderful apartment in Geneva, but it was certainly crystal clear when we came back to Australia, moved back in and tried to pick up where we had left off. We had only been back a week when we decided to put a deposit on a new terrace house by the lake in Greenway. Somehow a home for five people seems absolutely cavernous when only two or three live in it. A large garden built for small children feels like just another job to do on the weekend once the children are no longer there to play in it. When the photos, furniture and personal belongings are removed, it is just a house like any other house in the street (although we like to think it is nicer). Now that each of our children have their own homes, it feels like the perfect time to move on. We haven’t lived in the house for a year now, so it seems appropriate to say goodbye.
Everyone who moved into the street 30 years ago has sold up and left before us – we were, I think, one of the last “original” owners. We have photos of bare land all around the foundations of our house. I look at them, and remember what it was like to have no street lights, no neighbours and no grass or garden. To have dead rabbits deposited on the doorstep each morning from Tiger as a “gift” to show us how clever he was. To look out the window and see kangaroos hopping across the back yard. The trees we planted as small saplings that were transferred from Anura’s parent’s garden in Holder are now gigantic sources of lovely summer shade. The carpet roses that were taken from cuttings from Nan Cregan’s garden flower beautifully every year. I still have jars of relish and pickles made from the vegetable garden’s bountiful tomato crops. We have lived through extensions, renovations, landscaping, neighbourhood drama, family excitement, changes in neighbours and more recently have seen our two grandsons play in the garden. We remember family visits from grandparents and parents who are no longer with us. Anura’s dad and my father and brother helped us build our extension. The garden shed that still stands was a gift from Anura’s parents on our first Christmas.
Our names are all carved into the cement floor of the garage. I remember pressing Stephen’s hand and footprints into the concrete edging around the garden. Stephen, Catherine and Jonathan posed for photos at the beginning of each school year in the front garden and on many special occasions. We cut a gate in the back fence so that our neighbour Jared could easily come and play and be part of our family. Momentous decisions were made under that roof – about purchasing cars, changing jobs, planning family holidays. Last weekend we returned for a final photo and a last wander through the rooms which hold so many memories. Now empty, they made a fantastic ‘hide and seek’ playground for Jayden and Thomas, but no-one seemed sad to be there for the last time.
Yes, I have cried a few tears. We mowed the lawns and trimmed trees last weekend for the last time. I wandered around the pet cemetary and said a last goodbye to our furry friends. Molly found a ball that was hidden under a bush and enjoyed barking at it and running on the grass. I picked some of the flowers from the garden. I sat on the deck and remembered so many family gatherings. And then I walked through the house one last time, peeked in every room, and quietly walked out and locked the door. I remind myself that home is the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household. We now live in a different place, with different furniture, different belongings. It is time to say goodbye.