You Can Always Go Home Can't You.....

I might not have lived there for over five years, but the thought of no longer being able to visit my childhood home is, quite frankly, painful. 
The fact is, after twenty or so years my parents are selling up and downsizing to somewhere more manageable. It’s understandable I suppose, the house needs a younger family with energy and enthusiasm to look after the Jurassic Park style gardens and breathe new life into shabby, dated rooms. It’s been many years since my brother and I rode our Halfords bikes on the long, sweeping drive and even longer since my family played tennis together in the summer. However, none of this mattered because even as our baby photos were replaced by first days at school, shots taken at dance competitions and later group prom pictures, it was still our home. It was comforting to know that long after I had left, graduated university and moved into a place of my own with my now husband I could still go back. Back to those four walls that meant so much, where everything always remained the same and where I could look forward to a proper roast dinner.
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I could walk upstairs to my old bedroom, reliving in my mind a carefree time where every inch of wallpaper was covered in pictures of Orlando Bloom dressed as the eponymous Legolas. As the Scooby Gang from Buffy The Vampire Slayer smiled down at me from their lofty perch on my cork notice board. The room where I had spent time reading, writing stories and pretending to be a member of The Babysitters Club. How many hours did I dedicate to planning outfits for imaginary parties? Playing with my dolls? Or pretending that Snowball, my fluffy cream soft toy was a real kitty cat? How many times did I run up to my bedroom crying after my brother had teased me for the umpteenth time? Or when I’d had a bad day at school and fallen out with a friend?
In a world where things changed in a heartbeat, I took great comfort in the patterned carpets, vintage furniture, and old-fashioned curtains. I knew that no matter what if I ever needed a place of safety, or sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of London I could come here. Now, in a few short days, the front door will shut behind my parents for the last time. I’ll no longer be able to wander around the garden after breakfast or be comforted by the familiar sight of my parent's cars on the driveway. The house will soon look, and smell completely different with new, fluffy carpets, fresh neutral paint and modern furniture. It will belong to another family who have no idea how many tears have been shed, or how much laughter has been heard within its walls. 
Our secrets will stay here forever and gradually all traces that we lived there at all will be slowly wiped away. No one will know that my stupid, foolish brother once took down a wall when we were on holiday and burned a load of my parent's stuff on the lawn, or that the big fir tree suddenly split down the middle in a lightning storm frightening us all to death. Nobody will care that my mother once cooked for twenty-one people one Christmas, or that I fell in love for the first time here and subsequently had my heart broken too. No one will guess that a rope swing once sat in the garden or that my brother and his mates gathered in the living room to play Tomb Raider on weekends. That we’d have to coax a growling, fat hamster out from under a bookcase with peanut butter or that my beloved Grandma would come and live with us for a time after having cancer. 
I make it sound idyllic, but the truth is we had very some tough times there too. I also remember my mother sliding down the wall while hysterical, as my dad struggled to cope in the aftermath of another family crisis. I remember my father yelling at the top of his lungs at me as I’d stayed off school yet again due to a soul-crushing bout of depression. I remember lying awake in the dead of night being terrified monsters would get me, so I’d make family members stand at the bottom of the stairs until I'd switched my bedroom light on. I can still recall the time my brother threatened me with a knife and the pattern of the police officers uniforms as I finally made the statement that would explain once and for all my very strange behaviour. 
I can still hear my mother screaming the truth at my bemused grandma, who'd never mention the subject ever again, that her beloved grandson had been abusing me for years. There were other moments too, the time I cried myself to sleep after I couldn’t get hold of the person I trusted the most in the world. I can still feel the warmth of his lips as he kissed me for the first time in the sunlit hallway- I was fourteen years old and entirely unprepared for the utter car crash that was to be our relationship. I was a few days short of seventeen when I sat my parents down and explained that I wanted to move out when I went to college. The house had stopped being a place of safety and instead only held unpleasant memories for me. Later on, and having gained some much-needed distance, I began to fall back in love with where I grew up.
I now treasure the good experiences I’ve had there including the first time I saw my finished wedding dress, and the five gorgeous bridesmaids dresses my mother lovingly sewed from scratch. Over the years, the house has been my friend, confident and the last link to a childhood long over. It represents a time when the summer seemed to last forever, Tamagotchi’s were the number one kids toy, and everything appeared to be so much bigger than it really was. 
I learned how to dance, wear make-up, speak French and touch type here, and as the years passed it became a place where my parents could finally enjoy spending time talking with their grown-up children. We used to joke that World War Three would start in that house and while some battles were truly epic, the ties that bound our family together could not be broken. Now, as the last few boxes are packed up, it’s time to reflect on the countless years I spent under its roof, both happy and sad, and how they have shaped me as a person. I saw inside my grandmother’s old home recently, and while some things are different, i.e., a gorgeous conservatory and outdoor patio, others like the serving hatch and hallway stairs are still heartbreakingly familiar. 
I imagine that in the years to come we’ll all wonder about our old home, what the new owners have changed and if we’d still recognise anything in it. I’ve said goodbye to this house many times, some in relief, others in anger and sadness but it’s only ever been temporary- until the next time. This time it’s for good, and I’m not sure how to let my childhood home go. Now ready or not, it’s time for other children to discover just how much fun it is to play hide and seek there.

 Kirsty Braik-Scivyer

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