After well over 3 decades we have said goodbye to my childhood home. I never knew that something like this could have such a big impact on my emotions, but the fact is, I’m sitting here typing this with tears in my eyes. This was always “home”. My parents moved across the globe a number of times for work, but home was always there. Whether we were renting it out or not, it was always ours. It was always there.
When I was just 3 years old my parents bought a plot of dusty land about 20 minutes outside of Gaborone. Rocky, dusty, and filled with thorn trees, it was the start of something amazing. We didn’t even have a telephone line there, our first “phone” was a radio phone!
As a young girl, it was nothing short of magical. I played outside to my hearts content, running around barefoot, making forts under thorn trees and growing our own vegetables. We had so much freedom, riding our bicycles down the newly tared road, chasing cattle and donkeys out of the garden and saving our pets from snakes (puff adders and cobras mainly). I started driving down those farm roads at 12 years old with my dad and eventually at 14 would take my mums car out by myself (don’t tell the cops).
My mum always had grand plans of building a thatch style “farm” house, so to begin with, they put up a pre fabricated house, as a temporary start. Of course, life happens and the garden was developed around the house. Extensions were built and pipes laid, and that “prefab” house still stands today.
As a grew into my teenage years, I wished that my parents lived in town like the “cool” kids, it would make it easier for friends to fetch us or come visit us, nights out in town would have been easier but I am so very glad they never did.
The plan was always for my brother, sister and I to each have a portion of the plot as we grew up, and I always somehow felt that I would “return home” and take over my mums business. Life had other plans, and I settled down in another country and my grand life plan never did happen, but perhaps that’s why I still took every opportunity to visit home whenever I could, because some small part of me still clings to that ideal.
Whenever the stress of “city” life and growing up became too much, I drove towards home. Letting the rolling hills and thorn trees ease my stress and ground me again, the older I get the more I yearn for home. I love taking my children to experience the magic I feel. My sons love their narnie and grandpa’s house and I’m so grateful for the times I have managed to share with my older boys. We have picked veggies, roasted marshmallows on an open fire, looked for snakes, gone horse riding, ridden their bikes in the dirt and taken them on the river. We have swum from morning till sunset and checked if the chickens had any eggs. They’ve napped in the hammock and gone “shoeless” for days, relishing in playing with the kitties. Hopefully they will remember.
To see my children searching for “chongololos” or chasing the chickens around the garden like I did fills my heart with so much joy. Taking them at the crack of dawn to go pick their own vegetables, or letting them ride their bikes unsupervised is something I can never do living here in Johannesburg, but it’s something I did every chance I got when we were home. Washing as much of the “city” out of them as I could. Now that’s never going to be the same. They can never again wake up for a 6 am swim (In Botswana you can literally jump into the pool at any time of day its so hot), it will never be “our pool” again.
But what I have also realised is home is where the heart is. In this period my parents have lived in 5 different cities across the world, including islands in the South Pacific and the Caribbean. Wherever I visited, wherever they are is “home”.
I know it was a necessary move. As my parents grow older and need to downsize, this is the first move in the few that will see them land up in the UK, but I guess I just wanted more time. I wanted more time for my daughter to experience those things now. I wanted her toes to get all dusty and to take in the fresh “bush air”.
So as I say goodbye to our house for the past 3 decades, I realise it is just that. A house. It has a roof, a fireplace, a kitchen and a garden, It is two people that turned it in to a home. This house reflects the life and family my parents created together. The adventures and trials we have gone through together, and this home thrived because of them. So did I. I am always welcomed with open arms. I feel the most comfortable being me. I will always hold these memories and how they made me feel close to my heart. Memories of planting and selling vegetables to our local spar, spending Saturday mornings picking fresh spinach and radishes with my dad and rinsing them off in the swimming pool to taste. Building up bookshelves from scratch or redesigning my room for the 5th time. Having pool parties with my friends on the weekend or just driving around the farm roads blaring our favourite music to pass the time. This was the home that saw me through primary and secondary school, university and marriage. This was the home I brought all 3 of my children to as babies, to let Gogo Mary spoil them, as she spoilt me. This was the home that held first boyfriends and breakups, and staying up with friends until the sunrise and then trying to sneak back into the house. Weddings and family reunions, our house always had people in it, sitting under the lapa enjoying the cool of the shade.
So I may never drive down that gravel road again, the boys will never steal “chappies” from Mary’s shop again and I will miss seeing my mom’s garden bloom and flourish. I will miss walking into the house and seeing the familiar dark tiled floor or the cats water bowl in the kitchen, and It makes me sad. However, I also know that home is indeed where the heart is, and we will make new memories wherever my family goes.
Thank you Notwane, for giving me the most ideal childhood. For all the adventures and dramas, for all the love and warmth. I only hope that I can give my children the same freedom and sense of adventure that you gave me.