Six years to the day since I arrived in Oxford, I rush back in my lunch break to hand over my keys to the letting agent and bring the Howard Street era to an end.
A few weeks ago I was loving the liminality. (One of my new words of the moment, slightly misapplied to describe my state of being on the threshold of a new phase of life). Felt quite therapeutic to be sorting out my stuff, dealing with my baggage, and packing up all that I can’t leave behind. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to plant, and a time to uproot. Good to be looking back and looking forward, and relishing the rose-tinted enjoyment of the now that comes from imminent change.
Last week, surrounded by boxes, clutter, to do lists and bin bags, the liminality was less appealing. The messy reality of transition was intensified through unexpected loss and destabilising grief, resulting in a hasty dash to London and a reconfiguration of both the practical tasks and the world as I know it.
This morning, the house was quiet. My home for nearly three years. Emptied. Cleaned. Resting. A place that I recognise as a gift which has both cocooned us from the world and welcomed it in, witnessed many seasons and seen change, love, tears, laughter, tension, restoration and creativity. Taught us about community, hospitality and grace in unexpected ways. Built us up and sent us out and plumbed depths of relationship that I’d never anticipated.
The rushes and stresses of the last few weeks finally over, we look around the shabby living room which is crying out for a bit of a redecoration. This has been a good place, we agree.
We’re homeless, announces Amy as we wander off to the Magic Cafe for some lunch. Foxes have dens, birds have nests, I say light-heartedly, letting the familiar ending tail off. In our Father’s house are many rooms, she replies. We smile.
I’m not feeling particularly homeless. Thanks to my neighbour, I have a room of my own for the coming month. Feeling nauseatingly exhausted, that little space is a welcome sanctuary and one that I don’t take for granted.
In more ways than one, it has been an era-ending week of both home-leaving and homecoming. The rawness of bereavement aside, I find myself being thankful for one who inspired me to live simply and generously, transiently yet with great investment, and who is now welcomed home. Undoubtedly with a better party than any of our Howard Street dos.
I glance back at the house which is no longer mine, pondering how a time to grieve and cry and a time to laugh and to dance are not mutually exclusive. After an up and down kind of week, I am feeling simultaneously uprooted and re-grounded.
Walking on. Homeward bound.