ode to a flat

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eight years ago, my parents moved out of the home that i (and all eight of my siblings) grew up in. and i was a total wreck about it. as a very sentimental/attached person, i just couldn't handle the thought of someone else living in a house so saturated with thirty+ years of eyre family memories. our handprints were pressed in the cement in the front walkway, for crying out loud! i honestly had to move through a whole process of grieving in leaving behind that sacred space. i was really sad about not being able to take my husband, children and grandchildren inside that house one day; i keenly felt that peculiar sting of growing up and letting go.

to help process my sorrow, i wrote a kind of stream-of-consciousness blog post about that beloved family home. all these years later, i still can't read that post without getting misty in the eyes and tingly in the heart. that place! a tabernacle of tenderness, a holy treasure chest of memories both bitter and sweet.

wintson churchill said, "we shape our dwellings, and afterwards, our dwellings shape us." i've found this to be true with each and every living space i have inhabited - they have all become a part of me, some more poignantly than others. (here here and here are a few more posts i have written about houses and homes.) physical spaces made of simple materials become, over time and through saturation of memories, incredibly significant characters in our life stories. they truly shape us.

a couple of weeks ago, moses and ian and i said goodbye to our first real family home. ian and i lived in an impossibly small cinderblocked studio in palo alto as newlyweds, but only for a few months before taking off to travel for awhile and then to move abroad. and so, a tiny one bedroom flat in the very heart of london feels like the true starter home for the family we are building together.

we lived in those four hundred and fifty square feet two flights up in a building around the corner from trafalgar square for nearly two and a half years. and between those walls, so many formative things happened and so much growth occurred.

i took positive pregnancy tests there and showed them to an unsuspecting and immediately jubilant ian in the other room; we brought our newborn baby son home up those two flights of super narrow and steep stairs. in that tiny flat, there were countless prayers said and meals shared, lots of dance parties and tender mornings snuggling in bed. i nursed my baby to sleep every night there; we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries and valentine's days and christmases in the reception room with its two huge windows looking out over the busy street. over the months we had dozens of visitors sleeping on an air mattress in that tiny space, and lots of friends over for dinner, crammed around our small table. there were so many mornings when i would kiss ian goodbye, and then open a window wide and stick my head out to shoot a parting "i love you!" down the street. in our little flat there were lots of tears and there was lots of laughter; plenty of fights and even more tender moments of true love. we returned to this space after so many different trips, always experiencing that lovely, familiar, dewy feeling of home when climbing the stairs and pushing our suitcases in the front door.

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indeed, this simple and tiny space became our beloved family home. we shaped it as a dwelling, and then it shaped us. someone else lives there now, but those four hundred and fifty square feet will always belong in our hearts. we were really, really sad to leave it behind. but we will shape a second family home, which will in turn shape us, and there will be a newly grown spot for home in our hearts. isn't that wonderful?

just before i started madly packing everything up for our recent move, i took hundred of photos of our flat. so we could remember it just how it was as our sacred home.

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^^ our reception room was truly a multi-purpose room: living room, dining room, kitchen, play room, and baby's bedroom :) ^^
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^^ we are pretty proud of our magnet collection, kept in our little cubby of a kitchen. ^^
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^^ smiling, but sad. leaving the only home moses has ever known! i can't believe this little family is mine. ^^
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^^ we asked the letting agent that was checking us out of our flat to take one last picture of us in it empty. and then we stood out of the rainy street looking up at our windows for a while. just sooo bittersweet! ^^
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^^ taking away the last of our trash and our stuff (our vacuum was the final thing to be removed, haha) - feeling sad, and happy. ^^

thanks, flat 1 at 60a chandos place, for all the memories. we love you forever.

10 comments:

  1. Bittersweet memories. Hope y'all are settling into your new home sweet home.

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  2. If moving is so upsetting why not just buy a home in an affordable community that has work opportunities for you or your husband or both in the country you have citizenship? You are in your thirties, completed education, married and know there will be a child/children to consider in your housing and lifestyle choices.

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    1. I didn't get the sense at all from this post that leaving was upsetting for Charity, but that it's bittersweet. Many of us who are in similar life phases don't feel that we have to buy a single family property in order to have a home.

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    2. She explained below she was not. I am glad. She has spent many days posting sadness over leaving the old ward, how things changing like the red door color on her current flat made her jaw drop, the sacredness of the space that was suggesting a more permanat decision.

      Congrats on the news!

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  3. i am sad the tone of this post came across to you as upset. i was going for gratefully sentimental... we love living in england, and in london, ian loves his job and i am excited for a new career path i am forging, and we have no interest in buying a home in an affordable community in the usa right now...so i guess that’s why ;)

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    1. I was going for permanance so you would not have to keep moving. I am glad you are being sentimental.

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  4. I totally get this! I've taken all of the pics every time we move. I even get sad when we sell a car! Just read your latest post. Congratulations!!!!!!!

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  5. Aw, this makes me so sad. Leaving lived-in, loved-in places is hard. And that flat was so lovely and always so warm and toasty! But onward and upward - and I can't wait to come and see the new place :)

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  6. LOVE this post! We'll look back on these pictures in future years with fond remembrances. This place holds lots of wonderful memories for us too, especially at the arrival of Moses. . LOVE this place! Thanks for the memories little Flat #1. But nothing is more exciting than change! Each place brings such great new relationships to love and hurdles to cross. "You're gonna love it there!"

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  7. I felt similarly when we moved out of the duplex we rented for 4 years. It’s where we brought our daughter home from the hospital. She took her first steps there. Etc. but it’s fun to have a new home for other milestones!

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