I spent the last two weeks before the long Easter weekend back in my hometown of Kadoma, in Zimbabwe. It was a very bittersweet trip. Not only was I going to just go and be with my family, but I was also on a mission. A mission to tie up loose ends, to settle unsettled affairs and to sell stuff we had left behind when we moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa. I was there to say goodbye.
For those of you who have just stumbled upon my blog, we are in the process of relocation from South Africa back to the UK. We are Africans by birth, but spent over 10 years in the UK which is where we met. After we married we moved back to Africa, but now it’s time to say goodbye again. And it’s breaking my heart.
History & background reference
I’m not going to go into the details of how it came to be, but suffice it to say that we spent a few years building our dream house, furnished it, spent two weeks in it and then left. We locked the door and walked away. We’ve been back a few times, but it’s become more of a holiday home than the big happy family home we had envisaged.
Walking back into our house was extremely emotional and exciting, but at the same time it was so sad and depressing. After a week there, I finally figured out why I wasn’t happy – it’s because I was doing it all alone. Or that I was trying to adjust to being in what has become a foreign country to me. It wasn’t even that I was still having to look after the kids alone all day as my parents work. It was because we were alone, alone without my husband.
When we built the house, it was together, we were a team, my husband and I. We built it before, during and after my second (and awful) pregnancy. We planned out every detail of the house to make it the home we wanted to live in with our girls forever. We built it whilst he was working in Nigeria making the money to finish it, and I was dealing with contractors. We built it together over the phone, with photographs being sent back and forth, instructions being delivered back and forth, regular melt-downs and even more emotional outbursts.
Just in case you thought it was easy for me, he is a Civil Engineer by trade. If a line is not straight, do it again! He picked up things that weren’t done perfectly from photos I sent him on Whatsapp. Things I didn’t even notice in person, but he picked them up. Just consider that for one moment! Two years of that!
Oh, and as I said, during this time I was also going through raising a toddler, having a terrible pregnancy (Kate Middleton had nothing on me), and then hauling two babies around whilst Project managing a house build for an absent Civil Engineer, in ZIMBABWE!! I mean, nothing there is straight forward! Nothing! From dealing with poor workmanship to contractors trying to pull the wool over my eyes, and others trying to steal every last penny they could!
Anyway, I digress. When we were finished, it was the house of our dreams, if not 100% finished. And then we had to say goodbye so we could start our new life in South Africa.
Walking into our house two weeks ago, it was like walking into our home as if we had died. Not just locked up and left, but died. The reason I say that was because when we last left we thought we’d be back quite soon. But that didn’t happen. It took 18 months for me to get back.
When I walked in, I felt an eerie and emotionally draining feeling wash over me. I opened the cupboards in the kids rooms and a few clothes were still packed in there, only 18 months too small. Clothes I’d worn during my pregnancy (and 2 sizes bigger than now) were still hanging in my closet. A pair of my husband’s shoes were still next to his side of the bed. The pantry contained items like salt, coffee, sugar, long life milk, washing powder, etc.
So when I say it’s like we’d died, I mean it.
Moving on, begrudgingly being a big girl, and after a week of dealing with a lot of stress and heartache and frustration, I had a wave of realisation wash over me.
The Real Life Reality
I realised that the house that had meant to much to me and us, that we had poured our hearts and souls and marriage into, without him it was just a house. Despite our emotional investment into the brick and mortar and tiles and plumbing and electrics, it was just a house. Without my husband being there with me, it was just a building that brought back memories. Bittersweet memories.
He is what made it a home. If he had been with us, we’d have loved being there. But without him, it was just a noose around my neck. The kids hated me dragging them there every day. All I did was go through old stuff and decide whether to chuck it out or save it for … what exactly? What exactly should I do with stuff that has meant enough to me to keep until now, but not touched for over 18 months!
Was It A Holiday?
I guess the point of this post is that, when I was spending good quality time with my parents, I was happy. I was content. I was enjoying my holiday. But whilst the girls and I had to “entertain” ourselves during the days, life was not all holiday roses and good times! This part of our trip was not a holiday. It was long, hot and tiring days. It was heartache and frustration. It was stress and strain. It wasn’t a holiday.
I was there to say goodbye.
I was there to say goodbye to a life I never really got to live. To say goodbye to a life I wished my children had got to live, but never will. I said goodbye to memories that had in some way kept me trapped, unable to move forward, always wanting to move back instead. The hardest part for me was driving away from my house that last day, knowing I will quite possibly never live there. Ever.
It was time to focus my mind and to say goodbye.
At the end of the day I realised that my home is where my husband is. I am extremely close to my family, especially my mom. But without him with us, wherever we are is not home.
Home is where we as a family exist.
We booked our tickets back to the UK today. One Way Tickets. One. Way.
I’m scared, sad, excited and happy all in one. I’m emotionally exhausted and the hard work hasn’t even started yet. I haven’t even said goodbye to my South African life yet, a life I have come to love.
This is moving.
This is immigrating.
This is family relocation.
This is saying goodbye.
This is heartbreak on a deeper level.
This is how hard it is to Say Goodbye.