HOME FOR THE HOL­I­DAYS

Af­ter years of mov­ing house, Sarah Caden has fi­nally set­tled, as has the pres­sure to make the sea­son bright

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FIRST PERSON -

Six years ago this month, dur­ing what we now all call ‘The Snow of 2010’, we sold our house. We had to, so we were go­ing to rent and work out what to do next. It was sup­posed to be a six-month pe­riod of plan­ning and house-hunt­ing.

In ret­ro­spect, it was a bit mad, be­cause we weren’t re­ally ideally fixed to de­cide any­thing. The big­ger pic­ture was that we had a new baby daugh­ter with an ex­tra chro­mo­some, and my hus­band had a new job in a capri­cious in­dus­try.

The smaller pic­ture was that it was snow­ing and it was Christ­mas. These are not times to make big moves. But we had to and we did. And six months turned into five years.

We moved sev­eral times, to houses all within a one-mile ra­dius, all within walk­ing dis­tance of where both daugh­ters even­tu­ally started school, and close to where we have ended up. One year ago to­mor­row, we moved into our own house, the mort­gaged kind.

We had five Christ­mases in those houses, all of which I thought of as stop­gap sea­sons of good­will. No way to think, I know. Then, last year, we moved in to our own house, six days be­fore Christ­mas.

This year, we’re set­tled. It feels strange. Strange in a good way, but still strange. Grown up. It was a long time com­ing, but this Christ­mas feels like the first truly grown-up one. And grown-ups are sup­posed to know what they’re do­ing, at all times, in all sea­sons.

We were only one year mar­ried when we bought our first house, just as this cen­tury be­gan. This time around, we are in our 40s, with two chil­dren. That first house was a cot­tage where we had lots of par­ties, lots of lie-ins and few re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. This house has a drive. And a lawn, al­beit ar­ti­fi­cial. And here, we’re not the kids play­ing at be­ing grown-ups, we’re the adults.

It was the sum­mer that ce­mented that set­tled feel­ing. The evenings of me lean­ing out the side door of the house at 8pm, call­ing the older daugh­ter in from play­ing on the road. The af­ter­noons of hand­ing out togs to a gag­gle of un­der-10s who would splash in the (weak mo­ment in Smyth’s) 2.5m pad­dling pool, un­til the sun was gone down and their lips were blue. The days that not just the older daugh­ter, but the younger one too, with her dis­abil­ity and my fear that no one would ask her to play, were in­vited across the road to bounce on the neigh­bours’ tram­po­line.

Noth­ing, not mar­riage, not preg­nancy, not hav­ing ba­bies and rear­ing ba­bies had quite made me feel so set­tled be­fore. And, even in the height of sum­mer, there were mo­ments when I won­dered what Christ­mas would be like. I’ve never felt so in charge of the mem­ory-mak­ing. And the Christ­mas mem­o­ries mat­ter more than most. Good, bad, sad, even an­gry ones.

I want the chil­dren’s mem­o­ries of this year to be dif­fer­ent. I can’t help my­self. I want it to be one they re­mem­ber as here, in this house, set­tled. It’s a big de­mand to make of the fes­tive sea­son; a big de­mand to make of my­self. There is a dan­ger in equat­ing set­tled with sorted and sorted with per­fect. I know it’s just a house and it’s only Christ­mas, but still. I feel a temp­ta­tion to go mad at the mak­ing of it amaz­ing.

There is a chim­ney for Santa and the chil­dren will be able to go out and make merry with their presents on the road with their friends, for the first time ever. And we have un­packed (mostly), we are bed­ded in and go­ing nowhere and it feels like for keeps, for now.

When you move around a lot, you get used to think­ing al­ways about the next house, the move, the next po­ten­tially ideal set-up. And the Christ­mas in our “own” house was al­ways the ideal. But it won’t be ideal, be­cause it can’t be, but it can be good enough. That’s all you can ask from Christ­mas.

Santa, we’re home.

We had five Christ­mases I thought of as stop­gap sea­sons of good­will

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