Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New House, New Neighbours


Somewhat oddly for a blog devoted to the idea of home, I haven't mentioned an enormous change in my own home life. Events happened too quickly for me to assimilate and write about them before now, but this is the news: we have moved. Yes, moved.

I know this comes as a shock to many who know us; it certainly wasn't something we had planned to do. So how did it come about?

I have written before about our street, and how I have struggled to make much headway with the neighbours. I have one excellent neighbour; one neighbour who is civil when we bump into each other on the street; and that is the extent of it. Everyone else is emotionally absent. I say, rather brightly, 'hello!' and the other neighbours duck their heads and avoid my eyes – even the ones with kids.

They don't seem to talk with each other, either. I have come up with all sorts of justifications for their behaviour; I have wondered if there's something wrong with me; finally, I have decided they are just city dwellers – or rude.

Meanwhile, for years we'd floated the idea of buying neighbouring houses with close friends, but it never panned out. It was something I had given up on; and when I gave up, I found the energy to fix our own house. In the last twelve months I have had the eternal leak in the roof fixed; painted the house; and even put in a big veggie garden.

And like the couples I know who relinquished the dream of conceiving a child and adopted, only to fall pregnant minutes later, once the garden was finished a house came up for sale in our friends' street. We looked at it out of curiosity, thinking there was no way we'd move – especially now our roof was fixed and the garden done.

But we fell in love. The house was old, ramshackle and airy, with roses in the front and fruit trees out the back. We looked again with family and my father said, 'Now is the time to decide what you value more highly: your nicely renovated house and garden, or friendship.' Nothing like putting our values on the line, dad.

We looked a third time. I wailed to one friend, 'surely I am supposed to develop relationships with the neighbours that I have, not become neighbours with my friends'. She pointed out that I had tried for over a decade in my street, and encouraged me to move on.

My husband and I worried and fretted and moaned for a fortnight, going back and forth. It was closer to some friends, further from others. It was smaller than our house, and not in such great condition. Our fridge would never fit. We could walk to the library and pool, but no longer to our favourite shops. Perhaps the floor plan would work better for us? Every night we talked and teetered back and forth like one of those wobble toys. Then the house went to early auction and, hearts thumping wildly, we bought it.

We moved just over a week ago. Within two days I had met eleven neighbours, not counting the friends I already knew. The neighbours on one side have a very large extended family which convenes regularly for meals. During last week's gathering, my kids climbed up the fence and peered over at the party, had a good chat with whoever was down there, and were handed fragrant shishkebabs over the fence. (Rather irritatingly, although they usually gag and moan at anything new, especially meat, they demolished them and begged for more.)

The kids and I also spent an hour with the family across the street, drinking tea (me) and climbing on the cubby house roof (the kids). And we've been invited in by two other households. Meanwhile, we've eaten with our longstanding friends twice in a week, meaning we've each had a night off cooking and our kids have run around very happily together. And our friend's son, an only child, has come over after school.

Boy, is this street different. I've spent more time in other people's kitchens after a week here than after a decade in the old; I already know more people's names.

When I looked at the new house, I felt shaky. I was uncomfortable with the idea of change; I didn't want to pack up my house; everything was changing focus and it felt very difficult. And yet for many reasons, moving felt like the right thing to do. Our kids loved the house and wanted to be closer to their friends; we loved the house and wanted to be closer to our friends; and, although it is further from the city, the new house is more convenient for almost every aspect of our family's life.

An astute friend suggested that my collywobbles were like birth pangs, overwhelming and painful, but not to be confused with real doubts. Instead, he thought they were the harbinger of new life to come. A week after the move, I am sure he was right. We fit with this house very, very well; we have roses in the garden; and, without a doubt, we have neighbours.


  1. Sounds like the best move ever, I am so glad you have found your street and a community that will nurture you in so many ways.

    1. Thanks - and I believe we are now closer to your lovely street - must be some friendliness in the water here :-)


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