So today you sold your house, your home for 17 years. Mine for nearly as long, though maybe, deep down, just as long. That could explain the tears. Goodness only knows how you feel. As an adult myself (not a "grown-up", you understand, I was climbing trees only yesterday), a mother and a home-owner, I think that I can say that I am a little more understanding - although I in no way claim to have got all the bases covered.
The move into Maison Lymer signalled the end of an extended period of part-time separation of your husband, our father, from us - "us" being you and your five children - as he commuted from our home in Essex to his new job in mid-Wales. As you know, my Husband is sometimes away for work but never have I had to cope with such a long-term separation. Never during the sale and purchase of a house. And never with five children. And whilst the permanent family reunion might have provided some relief, you left behind your mother and sister – both had been within an hours reach in the car; now you were looking at least four hours of driving and without the convenience and informality that comes with geographical closeness. That can't have been easy. Quite the opposite, in fact.
And then you swapped a (seemingly) full and vibrant life, where everyone and everything was within walking distance, to not knowing anyone, not having a school gate at which to converse (since we, and many others, used the school bus) and having to get in the car for everything. Given our recent moving into the countryside, this, this I'm "getting" a little. It can be oh-so-isolating. Yet also oh-so-wonderful.
We moved when I was, crickey, how old was I? 15? I'd been there at the auction where the farm was divided into its designated five lots, "our" lot being the farm house and a small field. I was with Daddy at the auction, as he bided higher than the amount that you'd both agreed. I remember the conflicting emotions: Guilt that he'd done so and I hadn't stopped him; a solid sense that I was betraying you; excitement in the adrenaline-filled auction room; annoyance and despair at the opposing bidder; the sure teenage "rightness" that we should get the house, that it was clearly ours and only ours. As you know, we lost the house that day but through a series of legal twists and turns, what we thought we lost, we found. Or rather, it found us.
The house itself was a wreck. Of course, I didn't realise how much work needed to be done until I look back on it now – and I'm sure that I don't remember the half of it. I can visualise the photos of a corner of the house being supported by a "jack" as foundations were rapidly replaced. I remember floor boards, lots of bare floor boards and then floors with no boards. Vaguely I remember these things but what I most remember is that way that you very quickly, almost instantaneously, made it a home. Our home. Despite working full time (and have I mentioned the five children?), you produced curtain upon duvet cover upon cushion upon blind. You hung wall paper and you painted. I have no idea how long it was before the house was decorated but in my memory, it doesn't seem that long. Children moved bedrooms, ceilings fell down (okay, only one), yet life carried on. We went to school, we played, we did our homework, we had friends round, visitors came and went and came again. It would have been mayhem in my home, but not yours.
I was trying to think of my happiest memory from this time, and I can't, there are too many. There's the time we went to visit a new friend / neighbour at the top of the road and came home with a horse. (Borrowed horse, but even so.) Selecting the wall paper for my bedroom (I felt so grown-up!) and the joy and delight at how you made it all work. Right down to the vase – which wasn't appreciated as a moody teenager but is now treasured. The pride in bringing Boyfriend, now Husband, home to meet you for my 21st Birthday (even if this included a twisty drive to the hospital in Aberystwyth to visit my grandmother – excellent first introduction to the family). And then, of course, there's my wedding. The first of three that you've hosted - such wonderful, generous gifts you have given to the three of us who have married from home. And not just the day itself, but the preparation. Oh my goodness, the preparation. The laying of concrete, installation of a temporary kitchen, the cleaning and cleaning and cleaning (the receptions were held in a barn, a very old barn). And I know that I don't know the half of it. How you "saved" the wedding dress I'd made (who else was going to tell me that it was too big?), the stunning dresses you made for my sisters to wear as my bridesmaids and your stunning, oh-so-gorgeous outfit. My mother do things by halves? Never. Ever.
And then, of course, there are the every day things that mean so much, especially when you think that they're being taken away. I can picture you in your sewing room but I can't count all the finished projects that have come out of there. We've knitted together in that house. In the kitchen (do you remember ripping out that entire black cardigan because I'd made it too big?), the sitting room, the garden. At least you don't have a stash to move. But we've knitted together in many other places too. My home, Rowan HQ, New York... The important thing is that we've been together and we're still together now. Our relationship has been woven in ways that I would have never have dared hoped and continues to grow, and grow stronger. That house may have provided the backdrop, but the people were, are, its focus. You've always been people-orientated, it's one of your most beautiful qualities.
So I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the giving us the opportunity to grow-up, as individuals and a family, and thank you for giving us such a magnificent home in which to do so. I know it hasn't always been easy and I thank you for the sacrifices and hard-ships you have endured to make it work. I pray that these will not re-visit you in your new house and I wish you every joy in your plans to make it your home. At the beginning of this next chapter in your life, I send you all my love. I look forward to seeing you in your new home (though before then too) and being allowed to contribute. Have I mentioned to you my new love of quilting?