An Ode To The Childhood Home
Growing up we are taught to explore, that the world is wide, but to make your dreams wider - a sentiment that floods children’s television and literature. Take one of my childhood favourites We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, as a prime example. A group of children traipse off into the woods determined to find a bear and, despite their numerous obstacles, succeed. However, when they realise that the bear is dangerous, they charge back to the safety of their home, resolving not to hunt bears again. There’s one crucial lesson to take from this tale: “home” means safety and protection. So, explore and adventure, yes, but home will be waiting.
By the time we are teenagers, home doesn’t feel quite so secure anymore. Questions of further education, apprenticeships and careers begin to crack the walls of the (apparently not so impenetrable) fortress. Perhaps, it has already been cracked before: when Mum left in the night, or when your dog you’ve never known life without, passes away. But home is still there, somehow still standing, and the push to explore, to move, doesn’t cease.
So invariably, we listen to the storybooks of our past, and we take the plunge. Suddenly we’re off to Scotland with a car filled to the brim with absolutely nothing of use. Room decor? Of course. But a coat? Certainly not. And it’s exciting - the most excited you’ve felt, in fact. A home of your very own. Suddenly, you are those children on the bear hunt, chasing after your dreams, exploring where, perhaps, even your parents haven’t been before. But, you know home is still waiting: your bed still plastered with cheap magazine stickers, your baby cup gathering dust in the cupboard, where outdated photos adorn every wall; a traceable map of lives from room to room.
But moving isn’t exclusively for the young. My dad always encouraged me to travel and explore, yet somehow I never thought that extended to himself. I assumed our roots were intertwined, buried safe underground in the cottage I call home. But the “For Sale” sign that stands proudly by our driveway, the one that mocks me every time I return, has proved me wrong.
Suddenly, the notion of moving is no longer exciting. The Romantic ideal of exploring the world feels like consumerist lies in my mouth. Propaganda to raise dissatisfaction, to force people out of the old into the new. The prospect of moving home has existed as a threat for as long as I can remember. My sister and I have spent countless nights scrolling on RightMove, begging my parents to stray away from the pristine shine of modern glass cages, which promise simplicity in place of high maintenance historical properties. But, these doppelgänger new builds feel soulless against the fairytale feel of our childhood cottage.
Is there a chance we have all bought into this idea that moving is the key to solving all of our problems? In modern life there is a consistent narrative that change is good. We are always looking at what is next. In primary school we yearn to be in secondary school, hanging with the “big kids.” By GCSEs we can’t wait for A-levels - the chance to do just three subjects, you undoubtedly will love equally. By sixth-form Uni is suddenly the key to unlocking ultimate freedom - no more drama, or authority figures breathing down your neck. It’s a drive to keep society moving forward and, judging by my parents' insistence on moving, it’s a force that never slows down.
It’s good for the economy to breed dissatisfaction. To send brochures of glistening perfectionism in the form of red-brick mansions. To persuade the masses that they could have more: a more perfect location, a more ideal community, a larger house for less. Sadly though, it's a chase as futile as the one a dog has with its tail. Moving cannot satisfy, and once you’ve left those stained, chipped walls, which have been spectators of 20 years of tumbles, tears and tragedy, you can’t go back.
So, go on your bear hunts, explore, adventure and move, just never fail to appreciate. It took me too many years to cherish my childhood home, guilty myself of thinking that changing our base would help me to outrun problems that really live within. But moving only fuels restlessness and creates an appetite which can never be appeased. Could you really abandon a trove of memories over 20 years deep, for shiny glass doors and pristine kitchen bar stools?