I'm in my childhood bedroom with my husband and children. Which is pretty surreal, as it goes.
These four walls have seen a hell load. From the furtive kisses with my first boyfriend to door-slamming dad rebellions. It's seen me sob uncontrollably and laugh hysterically. It welcomed me back when, rather than moving in with the boy I thought was the love of my life, I was dumped unceremoniously at his best friend’s wedding. That summer, my dad and I redecorated together, Solomon Burke’s ‘Don’t Give Up On Me’ on a loop, trying to make it all a little less tragic that I was moving back in.
It's changed a bit, this room. It’s lost that garish paper that I considered vintage and everyone considered a migraine. But the bookshelves still hang heavy with memories. It seems I wasn’t a comfort blanket kind of a kid; instead, I had AA Milne’s ‘When We Are Six’ and Paddington and Roger McGough and The Adventures of Tim. My friends used to call me Matilda after Dahl’s bookworm of a heroine, and it’s a habit I fully intend to break back into.
Elsewhere, my student-bloated face smiles out from under a mortar board on my Saint Martins graduation photo. An inexplicable art project involves a pair of Converse in a leaded glass box, which probably meant something at the time. A picture of my dad looking just like me, long hair and all. My mother on my Mother business cards, smiling uncontrollably as she shows off a peek of belly, right after discovering she was pregnant with me. I got really lucky in the parent lottery.
But here we are, decades later. Everyone asleep. River, milkdrunk and smiling, breathing heavily into my ear like a cute version of Frank in Blue Velvet. Olivia, dreaming in a hiccupy way, like puppies do. Lori, at peace, his mind on pause from its constant whirring of the last few months of preparation. Of looking after us all. We bicker, but I love him.
We’re about to head off on the adventure of our lives. And give or take the odd bit of packing and brain-dulling admin, we're ready.
We, the champion hoarders, have put our lives for a year into two suitcases and three pieces of hand luggage. We feel so light.
The direct debits have been cancelled.
Our iPhones are on threadbare contracts where a fiver buys you the minimum.
The Catford charity shops have had a bumper harvest.
We got rid of everything, to focus on what matters.
Olivia was playing up massively in the few days that we were here at my parents’ and Lori was still house sorting in South London. But as soon as he arrived, she relaxed. As she put it, "it's very exciting moving out but it's not very exciting when you lose a member of your family when you’re doing it“. I couldn’t have put it better myself, kid. Now, she has her ducks in a row. The people she loves most in one place.
And we have what we need.
Half an Italian pharmacy.
Some really ugly walking sandals.
A Wonder Woman outfit, age five.
And each other.
So here goes nothing.
Wish us luck.
See you on the other side.