My parents moved to Lagos permanently when I was two months old. They had both already been here… My maternal grandparents moved here when my mum was a child (she stayed in India and came here for holidays), and my dad had been in and out since the sixties.
When I was two, we moved house. The house we moved into was lovely. Master bedroom, children’s room, playroom, tv room. And we had a huge garden in which we would play every day. On the swings, monkey bars, slide or rocking horse. We would play with one or all of the 14 cats (not ours, they just showed up) or with the 17 rabbits (ours – but regularly hunted by the cats!). And later, we’d run in the garden with the dog (half Pomeranian, half Japanese Spitz called Champion).
We made many happy memories in our home.
My sister went to boarding school, followed by me in 1989 and followed my brother a few years later. We would go back to Lagos for Easter and Christmas holidays. And for October half-term since Diwali was usually around that time. Coming back to Lagos was amazing. Each holiday became more and more fun. Once I reached my late teens, it wasn’t that much fun. Everyone had grown up a lot and had other responsibilities, they couldn’t just hang around doing nothing all day.
Once my brother went to school in the UK, my mum started spending more time there than in Lagos. She spent her time between the two places, but was in London more and more.
My dad felt lonely – but he travelled between the two places also. He had his routine in place (I know, I’ve made him sound like a child). He played cards, he went out to dinner, he watched his favourite TV shows, and he had a good set of friends.
When I moved back in 2004, I moved in with my dad, into my childhood home and into my old bedroom. The white paint couldn’t hide the fact that the walls used to be purple!
In April 2005 dad left Lagos (unforseen) and moved to London/Bombay permanently. I refused to move too because it was half-way through the school year and I didn’t want to leave my kids. So I stayed and lived with my cousin.
I got engaged over the summer and since I would be living in Lagos permanently after the wedding, anyway, I came back to start my second year at school. Again, I lived with my cousin.
In the run-up to our wedding, we decided that once we were married, we would live in my childhood home. There was still a year left on the lease, it was empty and… And why not?
We moved in three weeks after we came back from our honeymoon and there was stuff *everywhere*. My mum didn’t know that her previous trip was her last (she has been for two visits since we married) and my dad left most of his belongings behind.
While I was very comfortable, surrounded by familiarity, Hub was not so happy. He didn’t feel like it was *his* home. Everywhere he looked there was a family photo, or other item that reminded him that it wasn’t home.
Slowly, I tried changing things. I removed all my family photos and started putting up *our* family photos. I had the sofa reupholstered and new curtains made. Mum sent me new bedding and towels, etc. We painted the walls – now instead of all of them being white, one is turquoise and another orange (don’t ask – but it works). And moved the furniture around.
Sometimes I think we are SO lucky – we moved into a ‘ready-made’ house where *everything* was already there! All the dishes were in the kitchen, tableware, barware, furniture, televisions, DVD players – the LOT! We’ve saved ourselves quite a bit of money, I’d say. And it’s *our* home now. I love that Vinay had his first birthday party in the same garden we all had ours in. And that his room is the same room I used to sleep in (no purple in sight!). And I love that we have space.
What’s the downside?
Well… My parents spent thirty years living here. My mum is very used to how things *were* not how we have made them.
We regularly have conversations that go something like this…
Her: You know what we used to do…?
Her: We used to put x, y and z like this…
Me: But that’s not how I’m doing it.
Her: You’re very silly. You’re doing it wrong.
Her: I *never* did it like that (or, It never used to be like that).
Me: Well, this is how I’ve decided to do it (or, That’s what it’s like now).
Her: I see. Well it sounds very silly to me.
I once mentioned that we wanted to get new furniture – a new dining table, sideboard, dining chairs, etc. She *freaked* out. ‘What do you mean you want new furniture? The furniture at home is good American furniture! You’ll never find anything like it!’ I tried to explain to her that while it was very nice furniture, it wasn’t *ours*. And it was thirty years old (but in good condition)
But, instead of selling it and buying new stuff, we re-arranged the living room with the help of a friend. We were all very pleased with the result – it looked fab. I took pictures and emailed them to the family. They all replied with compliments on how great it looked. Apart from mum. She replied with, ‘Why is that heavy Ganesh statue on the piano?’ And, ‘The curtains need washing.’
Don’t get me wrong, she’s actually very supportive about a lot of things. She helps me find upholstery, bedding, appliances, etc. Helps with V and is very hands-on.
I think she’s found it very difficult to let go. It must be hard for her to see people living in what was *her* home and running it differently to how she would do it. Especially since all her belongings are still here. All her crystal and silver dishes (which I will return once they’ve settled somewhere permanently).
But it’s been nearly six years! How much more can I take? I have to remind her every now and then that it is now *my* home and that the way she did things doesn’t necessarily work for me!
Go on – tell me. How selfish am I being?