• Tola Coker

When Your House Isn’t A Home

House /haʊs/– a building for human habitation, especially any consisting of a ground floor and one or more upper stories. 

Home /həʊm/ – the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.

Lily padding – going from place to place.

So what happens when the place you barely got to call home is stolen right from under you? And there's nothing you can do because you're nine years old and your only concern is what's going to happen on next week's episode of Winx Club.

    You spend the next 12 years jumping from house to house, not having a place to call home.

So thank you, financial crisis of 2008...thank you.

I still have no idea about what happened back then or why it happened in the first place but here's a small something I found:

"The 2007/8 recession began after a credit crunch which led to a prolonged period of fiscal austerity." And some other things about banks and mortgages.

I remember one minute my dad had a job then the next, he didn't, and that's when it downhill.

       One day both my parents came to pick me and my sister from school, which was unusual; not only that but they were dressed up, nothing flashy – maybe something they would wear to work. I asked them why they were dressed up, did they go somewhere nice to eat? But apparently not. Instead, they answered with "No, we had to go to court." Still confused, again I ask, "Why?"

"They're taking away the house."

Now, I don't remember how the rest of the conversation went, but the word 'repossession' came up. In essence, it was: " no job, no money, no money, no mortgage payment, no mortgage payment, no house." So yeah... you get the gist.

My parents had a sad look on their face, maybe more for us than for themselves; which is understandable. Myself, on the other hand – still unsure of the situation, was in a state of confusion.

One minute you're lowering your teddy bear from the top of stairs playing 'spies' with your sister, then in the blink of an eye you're packing up boxes because you have a few weeks to leave. As my mum would say, we had to 'pack our load and go.'

The following weeks were when reality finally set in. We were dumped in a two-bedroom flat in Sittingbourne, a family of five with a baby basically fresh out the womb. We weren't there for long, but it felt like we were there for years.

    For some reason, to get to the bathroom, you had to walk through the tiny ass kitchen. With the majority of our stuff away in some random storage unit; my sister and I had to share a wardrobe and had nothing but our Nintendo DS's to keep us entertained. We were almost always late to school because we lived over half an hour away.

Eventually, after several house viewings, we were finally moving out of that cramped hell-hole. But this wouldn't be the last time we would have to move.

This one was a maisonette – all big bedrooms, a huge kitchen, even a conservatory. And it was close enough for me to walk to secondary school.

But as luck would have it, we weren't there long, and it was time for us to move again. This time it was a new build on a fancy (overpriced) estate, again, close to school. But it was stupidly small – not only did my wardrobe serve as a place to put my clothes. But also my jewellery, makeup and whatever miscellaneous junk I was hoarding at the time. To this date, it was the longest place we had lived anywhere – four years.

And so it was onto the next...

House number three, post-2009 eviction holds one of my favourite memories. Summer 2016, my mum had decided to put together a BBQ, she invited her friends, my dad invited his and my sister and I had ours. This was the first and last time as before we knew guessed it, it was time for us to move. Here fucking go again. (If you must know, the landlord decided they wanted to sell the house instead and we simply couldn't afford to buy it)

Which brings me to the current place of unwilling residence. All I will say is, *insert the 'I hate it here' gif*. To put an already long short, every time we found somewhere to live, either the landlord or estate agent had different plans. At one point, we were packed and ready to go and out of nowhere, 'SIKE!' we can't move, and we had a week to be up n out.

At this point, I was old enough to see the emotional and mental impact this vicious cycle had on my parents. And as someone who too easily wants to take the problems of others, I became perpetually anxious and felt burdened. But what could a 17-year-old possibly do other than develop complex control issues that she would have to unpack several years later in therapy, as well as a bitter hate for landlords?

I'm at a place now where I can't feel settled, even though I so desperately want to, but what's the point when you know somewhere down the line, you're going to have to move again. You think "Are we ever going to have a home of our own?" And with each passing day, you become more and more pessimistic. All because a massive chunk of your life has been a series of unpredictable events.

To be transparent, it's only been within the last year that I've realised how traumatising this was for me. Because, as you can imagine, lily-padding from house to house for such an extended period of time will definitely do some damage. I'm constantly in a state of 'can't get too comfortable, we're going to have to move soon anyway.'

My mum always says that we're in this life to learn lessons and we have to learn them now, so we don't have to repeat them in the next life but, the only thing that I've learnt from this is that landlords are soulless leeches.

I wouldn't call myself an inherently jealous person. Still, there are times where I find myself feeling somewhat envious of those who had grown up in one home their entire lives. Whereas I've grown up in a series of houses, no roots, and scattered memories. I would assume that's fair, though, right?

With each move, every time I think of the places I have lived, the more blurred my memories of each house become, with features of each house bleeding into each other.

Not so long ago, I was thinking about what my life would have been like if we weren't forced out of our cosy Strood home many moons ago. I would have gone to a different secondary school, met different people and made different choices, I probably wouldn't be writing this. As interesting as it is to think about, I'm pretty content (well as much as I can be).

I would love for my family and I not have to worry about the next move, I want to decorate, I want my own room. I would love to finally feel settled and at home, something I haven't felt in a very long time. But for now, this crummy house in Gravesend will have to suffice.

Anyway, we move...

(hopefully not literally or anytime soon if so, at least somewhere permanent)

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