There are many traits we take from our parents, some without even realising.
Lately, I have been contemplating which trait I don’t want to give life to, in my future.
Most recently, the one that keeps bothering the most, is my Dad’s lack of desire to turn the space where he lives into a home.
Here’s the thing, my parents moved to the U.K. to helps us get into University, the plan was for them to stay for 3 years, send me to University, return to Portugal and then hypothetically return in 3/4 years to do the same thing for my middle sister. They were planning to simply come, get us accustomed with the country and leave us to it. I am not sure of the exact details of the original plan, but this is what I have heard a few times before.
17 years later and they are still here.
Throughout this time, they have been renting, buying a property was never considered, now it wouldn’t even be part of their plan as they don’t want to be tied up with another mortgage, especially in a different country.
What kept my parents past their 3 year plan the first time around? The ‘happy slap’, they were beyond scared for my safety. Bullying was so common it was terrifying, stabbing was a regular occurrence, and school fights were pretty much at the tip of everyone’s tongue. However, when I was 14 U.K. was on the top of the ‘competitive advantage’ list when it came to employment across the globe, if you spoke English, came from a U.K. University then you were wanted by majority of employers. My parents wanted us to have that advantage. It made sense, and honestly, I am grateful for such plan. Even though I had to cut my hair into a bob within my first year in the country, to avoid having it set on fire, I have learned a lot during my academic chapter in the U.K.
Today U.K. is home.
However, when you enter my humble abode, well my parents’ humble abode where I came back to after a short attempt to live in Portsmouth, you may wonder why there are quite a handful of things to be done, bought or changed. Or not, maybe it’s all in my head.
My Dad’s take on it? It’s not his house, why should he decorate it, furnish it, or even get comfortable in it.
After 5 years, it became upsetting, yes, we were renting, but if we were going to stay in the country for a longer period then for the next place we rented, it made sense for us to furnish it. Well, my Dad disagreed. It caused many arguments, many tears, many silent days. It was disheartening.
After a handful of years, Mom convinced Dad to change the flooring and paint some of the walls. To help freshen up the place a little, and make it all feel more like a ‘home’. After many arguments, we got a new flooring and some walls painted. Then Mom slowly started buying things she liked, but not too many, she had to make sure she didn’t have a lot to pack just in case they went back to Portugal in the same year.
Then I entered a very interesting phase, the super-daughter-look-at-what-I-do phase, I wanted to change the way my Dad perceived a rented space and started helping to furnish the home a little more, I upgraded from buying things like kitchen bins to real furniture. I even forced my middle sister to help me paint a few walls. A short-lived phase, as my Dad didn’t change and spent most of his time reminding us that it was rented, not our home, and there was no point spending so much in a place he had no intention to retire in. Again, disheartening.
I gave in and decided to follow suit to reduce the arguments.
Well, I listened to my Mom and agreed to let certain things be. You know the choice between being right and being happy.
Every now and again I help buy what we need for everyday use and turn a blind eye to a number of areas that I have cried many hours and nights about.
Until I brought a boyfriend home.
Yes, the boyfriend. The one I intend to spend my life with.
He is beyond humble, the most graceful, understanding, supportive, considerate person I could ever imagine would complement me so well.
But this doesn’t stop me from seeing the cracks more clearly, the walls that now need more attention than ever, the laminate flooring, which is 10 years old and needs some loving, the white goods that may have been used for a little longer than necessary. There are gaps that require a few frames to liven up the space, the old chandelier that is pretty 1980’s and and doesn't bond well with the treadmill it shines light on, the balconies that require a whole squad to make a real change and the pantry that was forgotten about throughout all of these years.
It doesn't bother me because my boyfriend may think any less of us or me, or that he may feel uncomfortable. It bothers me because in the back of my mind I always wanted to make sure we felt at home, even when we didn't understand the language everyone spoke outside our door, I wanted our home to be our refuge, our most comfortable place on earth even if it was on a temporary basis. I wanted the space to look like us the right way.
Mom has always wanted the same thing, so she did what she does best, she bought seeds and started planting again. Our living room is a home version of the Amazon, plants on the floor, plants hanging and plants on a plant stand. At one point one of the plants had branches of 5 metres, it pretty much joined us for breakfast, lunch and dinner, everywhere we turned it was there. It was more like a baby sister, until it was split into beautiful 10 other vases. Something that makes my Mom feel at home despite everything else.
It made me realise that no matter where we are, no matter if it’s rented or bought, my heart desires to make any space where I lay my head at night a home. I love my Dad, but I really don’t think that buying your preferred choice of bookshelf, desk or coffee table to be a sign that you are going against your short-term plan in a different country.
Even if your intention is to be away for 12 months, make your space a home. Plans change all the time, and life is too short to not buy that vase you really love and would make a big difference to how your space feels for you.