I just love it when in the middle of a book you stumble across a paragraph that makes you feel so..something, that you have to read it again. And again. And you never forget it.
At the moment we’re searching for our next family home, something that hopefully we won’t have to move from for a few years and in which these early years of BUB.1 and BUB.2 will continue to play out. We’re moving counties to be closer to my parents so that the BUBs and us can have more time with their grandparents and we get a bit more help and perhaps a trip to the pub. As a twosome.
When we bought this house less than two years ago it was a different story. We knew we had to be within striking distance of London, we wanted a nice city and a period property. We got it all. But I was pregnant with BUB.2 then and I didn’t realise how much more of a juggling act two children is or how much I would like to be closer to my family and them us. Or quite how bad my hair would look if I couldn’t make it to a hairdresser often enough.
This time around, it feels so much more daunting. I’m imagining my family growing up in this house. I feel pressure to get it right. I lie in bed in the early hours sweating about the enormity of the decision, which isn’t like me at all.
We could move to one of our dream locations but the house would be small and we’d probably want to move again pretty soon. As someone who has moved close to 30 times in my life, I’d rather not move again *too* soon. So maybe we can get a bigger house, but I won’t be able to walk out into a busy street with lots going on. I might be stuck in suburbia or a quiet village. Would that be so bad?
And of course, it’s bloody ridiculous. If this is our only worry, then of course we are very, very lucky. And that made me think, rather randomly, about a passage I loved in Michael Cunningham’s brilliant novel The Hours (as an aside, I’m a bit of a Virginia Woolf fan and Mrs Dalloway is my second favourite book of all time).
Here is that passage, in all its simplicity:
“It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk. The anticipation of dinner and a book. The dinner is by now forgotten; Lessing has been long overshadowed by other writers. What lives undimmed in Clarissa’s mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and its perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.”
To me the notion that while we are planning and waiting for things to happen, things actually do happen, are happening, is just so beautifully expressed here. And like all good literature, it just makes me feel a lot better.
Houses are just backdrops to our life. They are not our life. Whether we drive or walk to school – we will be happy. Whether there are fields outside our window or roads the same as ours – we will be happy. Whether there’s a view from the kitchen, a beautiful bath, a corner shop or theatre nearby, a big driveway, an inviting hallway, big windows, painting to be done, an old kitchen, a funny smell – we will be happy.
We might be inconvenienced, annoyed, irritated, delighted, indifferent to or excited by a house. But it’s what happens inside those four walls – the laughs, the love, the life, the words spoken – that make a life. Life is the play, not the theatre. Although pick the wrong seats and your bum might hurt a bit.
But your review won’t include that, will it?
As John Lennon far more poetically put it: Before you cross the street. Take my hand. Life is what happens to you. While you’re busy making other plans. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful boy.”