‘There’s no place like home.’
One of the most famous movie lines ever spoken; nowadays a well-worn cliché. When you no longer have a home you gain a vivid insight into just how true this saying is.
Another well-worn cliché (you can probably spot this one coming…) – ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.’ Indeed. Indeed.
I have always been conscious of the many ways in which I have been very fortunate, even blessed in my life, and I would often consciously remind myself of the fact. One of the things I was always grateful for was owning a warm, comfortable home for my family and I. Still, however much you are grateful for and truly appreciate what you have, it’s impossible to understand the depth of just how much it means until it’s gone. Loss gives new meaning to what we had and creates a yearning for the apparently simple pleasures that are no more.
When my wife and I first split I left my home with a small bag of essentials and an empty bag of ideas as to what I was going to do next. First port of call was, of course, my parents. As I entered with the awful news that I had completed the family hat-trick of three broken marriages (within 1 year, but don’t let that put any potential future Mrs Williams’ off; we’re quite the catch – form an orderly queue ladies….) one of the first questions after the initial disbelief was, ‘where are you going to live?’
To be fair at that point I had no idea about pretty much anything, with shock doing the job that nature intended and numbing the brain and the senses to protect against the emotional trauma that it would one day need come to terms with (and share on the worldwide web; it’s strange the roads down which life can take us…).
Staying with my parents wasn’t an option as one of my brothers had beaten me to it. The only option I could think of was one of my best and oldest friends, one that happened to live locally and live alone. At times like this it’s true that you see both the worst and the best of life, and amongst the very best things that life has to offer is the love and support of family and friends. My friend was unhesitating in offering me his spare room for as long as needed. I will be forever grateful to him for this, not only for providing the practical necessity of a roof over my head, but the wise counsel, sympathetic ear and welcome distractions that he offered throughout the four months that I inhabited the spare room. And also for the vacant look that accompanied my question about any house rules.
When your marriage has caved in it’s hard to think that you have fallen on your feet, but I certainly wasn’t having to rebuild from rock bottom. And that was a very welcome blessing.
Those four months passed in a blur of a new relationship, new clothes, a 40thbirthday and the unravelling of a marriage and a family. And whilst the loss of a wife and a great deal of time with my children was predictably difficult – after all, having to face these things is something you never wish to contemplate – I hadn’t anticipated how losing my home would affect me.
Going back and forth to my old home to pick up and drop off the children was a strange experience, and with each visit it became more and more apparent that home was no longer a concept that applied in my life. The stages along the way to detaching were odd, dictated by a growing sense of unease at being at my former home: from knocking on the door and walking in; to knocking and waiting at the door to be let in, to knocking at the door and waiting outside, no longer feeling comfortable setting foot into what was once my own little place in this big wide world. Over the weeks and months that followed my leaving it was hard seeing my home become more and more not home, seeing the symbols of our shared life together being gradually removed and replaced until no sign of me remained and my home was no longer.
This loss created a void, not just the obvious void of a place to call my own, but also in a missing sense of security and stability, a missing sense of having a place of my own in the world, and a missing sense of having somewhere that could offer stability for my children as we started to build a new life together as a different family unit. And it’s funny what your mind – or mine at least – latches onto as a symbol of your loss.
Relaxing in my armchair, reading a good book, enjoying a cup of tea, listening to my children playing, and with a cat lying on the cushion behind me.
That was my place. That was me.