At first I thought that as the thing that made our home happy today was a walk by the seaside in a beautiful part of my country I would write about mountains or the sea. Oh, how I love the sea! But then it struck me that what made our home happy today is living where we were both brought up. At one stage neither my husband nor I thought we’d end up settled here. He lived in Toronto for 8 months and then Michigan for a year. I lived on and off in Glasgow and then London for 4 months when we were engaged and the initial plan was we would start married life there.
But then life doesn’t always end up the way you think. The best laid plans and all that…. And so we ended up back in Belfast, living in the area Colin grew up in and across town from where I grew up. I then got a job across the road from my secondary school and a short distance from my family home. All of a sudden the world seemed so small, and our dreams of living elsewhere seemed a distant memory. Was this really God’s plan that I end up in a small city in a small country on the edge of Europe where I’d spent most of my life?
Now, 9 years on, (I was going to write ‘only 9 years on’ then realised 9 years is a significant length of time. I’m older than I remember!) I can see how living in Northern Ireland makes our home a happy place. Our boys are growing up in a neighbourhood their daddy grew up in. There is a shared history of us walking past his many childhood homes every day and the boys hearing stories of what used to be there, or about their daddy’s childhood paper round. Our children are growing up in a neighbourhood their uncles and aunties live in. They regularly call in unannounced as they are on their way to or from work or while out for a cycle sharing every day life with us. The chaos of a weekday breakfast or the witching hour before bed becomes a place of precious time with our extended family.
At times of illness living close to family is invaluable. To be able to call upon our families for an extra pair of hands when Colin ends up rushed to hospital. To be near my mum when she had a major operation on her back some years ago. To be close to Colin’s family and spending frequent normal time with them. And today with the death of the last of our grandparents, the boys’ Great Granny Woods, being able to drop our plans and easily be there with family for the next few days. Her home is just around the corner from where we first lived when we got married and near Daniels nursery school and so the stories of generations that have passed on will continue to be every day stories for our boys.
This country has its faults and of course there is complacency that comes from living somewhere so familiar. We don’t need to make friends as so many of them live here already, perhaps at the expense of reaching out to those new to the area. We still harbour dreams of living elsewhere while we have children at home but for now we are happy to have our children grow up in the city we both grew up in and having our family and lifelong friends around us.