Dorothy tapped her red shoes, said it over and over again, and found her way back to Kansas.
At about 2.30pm on Friday I walked into a small office, I gave my name and new address and walked out with a bundle of keys. I could have been anyone. I didn’t tap my red shoes, they were brown and lacking in glitter. I also didn’t chant ‘There’s no place like home’.
Earlier in the day I had whisked the sheets off my single bed and wondered whether this would ever happen again with any regularity. I’ve been told that once you get a double bed there is no going back. I had noticed my bank accounts were supplemented by a new account that morning, abundant not in the resources it contained but in the debt it recalled.
It suddenly became very real. I felt as though there ought to be some great solemnity to my actions as I turned the key, entered the block and juggled my way through various keys to reach the space that is now my own in a more tangible sense than ever before. I spent that first night in a sleeping bag having carried a few essentials on the bus, my excuse was the delivery men expected any time from 7am the next day. The truth: there was no way I was not staying here – even the prospect of going away for a few days next week seems slightly weird.
For the past few months this process has absorbed me, and if you follow me on twitter then you’ll have picked up on that too. I hear from my Mum (not on twitter) of conversations she has with those well acquainted with my movements documented in 140 character exerts. When I start instagramming photos of my packing progress I know things have gone too far. For weeks and months I have had room for precious little but mortgage applications, survey reports, property information forms, planning permission and elusive asbestos reports. When I realised I was reading documents my solicitor was not I perhaps should have taken the hint.
I think I have got lost in the process to dull the effect of what the move means.
I may have been in my old house longer than people stay in bought properties but it was always with the potentiality of leaving at short notice. I could wake up one day and in a month be in Australia having left my job, my house and with no one else holding me to the place I currently call home. But home just became a little less flexible.
It’s one of the reasons why I hesitated before jumping in, I like flexibility, I like being able to change plans without consultation or consequence. In short I like independence.
But in every act of chosen constraint is a new freedom. There are things that I am now less able to do, but others that become far more achievable. I have a home where I can welcome guests more readily; I can indulge my book loving, cookware hoarding, habits. To borrow the phrase of Andy Crouch, the horizons of the possible have now shifted.
It means I commit to being in a place I wondered if I would ever call home. But in that commitment, and as a direct result of that choice, I am more able to make home a reality. I first wrote ‘feel like home’, but then I stopped, paused, deleted, and realised the internalisations of the very habit I am wrestling with: to think of home as something other, something more achieved, settled, and perfect. So it is not about feeling like home, it is about making home happen. It is about choosing that this is the place I am.
Boundaries between adolescence and adulthood are far more permeable than before, moving out later, getting married a little older, waiting to have kids, it all pushes the threshold into realms less perceptible or shared. For many marriage is the great threshold when you relinquish a life you had and commit to something new and something shared. But I am not married, it is conceivable I never will be, so I can not pretend life waits for me to resolve my insecurities.
My bookshelves are up, books categorised and alphabetised, boxes of assorted tat I couldn’t bring myself to part with still await sorting and refining. Under my desk sits a box of CDs without a home, although I dutifully placed my CD player on the shelf and attached the wires it rarely spins the disks. Because times are different and habits change. The normality of one form of life gives way to another.
And in the transition between rooms that feel foreign to realising they are home, the temptation to say ‘mine’ stilled by the voice that says ‘ours’.