Home is where heart is
I grew up in a cosy home. We never had much money but it wasn’t a problem, mum built us a home using nothing but a bit of creativity and cheerfulness. We had an old worn creaky sofa in the lounge; the kitchen featured battered units and uneven floors; and for years we didn’t have a loo in the house - we had to use the one at the back of the garden.
Although looking back I remember all those things, they were never a problem. What stayed with me is the feeling of snugness; the warmth in winter and refreshing cool in summer; the smell of mum’s baking; the sense of peace and belonging. I liked nothing more than sitting in the kitchen after school, eating my dinner and catching up with mum. I loved that shabby kitchen. Because it was home.
When I started dating Mr Chateauneuf, he proudly began introducing me to his friends (and boy, they were a lot of friends to meet). Any normal girl would’ve found it fun and somewhat flattering; for the introverted me meeting new people was no picnic – I was a ball of nerves.
Once we were done with PE postcode of friends, we moved onto Hastings. I still remember parking the car down the hill on St Helen’s Park Road in front of this huge Victorian house with a grand entrance.
Nervous and apprehensive I climbed the stairs, not knowing what to expect. As soon as the door opened I was immediately enveloped into a welcome hug by the lady of the house.
She took me through the hall of creaking floors, past the dining room and the drawing room to the heart of the house – the kitchen. (As I found out later it was not a part of the original house and was only added after WWll).
She sat me down at the kitchen table and went about making me a cup of tea. As I looked around at the tired units, the freestanding shelving solution, wooden panelling and the dripping tap, I had a jolt of deja-vu. Not of the place but the feeling.
I saw the sunshine streaming through the crooked windows, the smell of something deliciously fried wafting in the air and the laughter of the kids filling the house. It reminded me of my childhood and of mum’s kitchen.
We sat at the kitchen table like old friends and talked for what felt like an eternity. As the afternoon turned into evening, more people arrived and we drifted into the dining room where food and wine magically appeared. A few hours later we moved to the drawing room and conversations turned louder and more personal.
At 3am we found ourselves sitting at the kitchen table again, drinking probably wine (although I can’t be sure now) and putting the world to rights to the sound of a dripping tap. I knew that having found a home with Mr Chateauneuf, I found another one, in the middle of a post-war dated kitchen, somewhere in TN postcode.
On our bi-annual visit to Hastings a couple of weeks ago we found out that our friends are renovating the kitchen. As they were excitedly showing us the plans for the old kitchen would be demolished and the new extension would be built, I felt the ache of sadness and nostalgia.
As I was listening to the dripping tap, I couldn’t help but wonder if the new kitchen would be just as home as the old one was? Would it not lose its essence? Would I have that sense of belonging I have every single time I walk through the kitchen door?
While we were still taking, the kids burst into the kitchen with nerf guns, screaming and shooting everything and everyone. And as the foam bullet hit me in the eye, I realised that the new kitchen won’t change anything. Yes, there will be new matching units and the tap won’t drip. But there still will be an aroma of something fried, the laughter filling the air, and years from now we will still be sitting around the kitchen table into wee hours in the morning, drinking and talking. Because that’s what you do, when you are at home.