It was October 2004, Helen was eight and a half months pregnant with Grace and we already had a 13-month old Lydia. Despite the challenges, we moved into number Walnut Grove in Dewsbury. We left behind our first home together, a small terraced house not a mile away, to create a home for our growing family. But now we have said our goodbyes.
We spent 10 wonderful years in that house, our four girls spent their formative years there and 3 of them we brought home from the hospital to this house. The place holds so many fond memories that were made there and in many ways, this is a sad day that we finally say goodbye.
But, the fact is that Walnut Grove stopped being our home 5 years ago. We left for a new life in North Yorkshire when I took a new job. We moved out of a home that we had a mortgage on into a rented home and then rented out our Dewsbury home.
Renting out our house was intended to be temporary. We took that option rather than trying to sell as the valuations we had varied so wildly. We were worried about it sitting on the market for ages and we would be paying both rent in the new place and the mortgage on an empty house. In hindsight, we should have put in on the market then and moved on.
Jumping off the property ladder
You might think that by deliberately jumping off the property ladder that we’re crazy. Maybe we are. But the fact is that we had little, or as it turned out, no equity in our Dewsbury home. Buying a house in the area of North Yorkshire where I now work would have been as out of the question 5 years ago as it is now.
Some people measure success in terms of the house they own, or at least the one they pay a hefty mortgage on. However, my measure has changed. Maybe once I was like that but I genuinely am not bothered by the fact we rent now. We’re happy living where we live and so are the girls – that’s the only measure I require.
Sad but relieved
When I got the call telling us that the sale had completed I had very mixed emotions. One feeling was sheer, unadulterated relief. The house had been on the market for 7 months. We were on our knees financially paying rent and a mortgage, plus council tax and other bills for an empty house. It was causing me sleepless nights and so much worry I’d been to see my GP about the anxiety.
But I was also sad. Very sad. We spent ten years in that house making so many memories. It’s hard to put into words this feeling. We may have left five years ago, with no intention of returning, and had tenants make it their home for over four years, but there was still an attachment.
I resented the house every time we had to make a trip to check on it. But now, it’s likely we’ll never see it again without making a special drive past trip and I feel weird about that.
The last visit
I made one last trip to the house a few days ago alone. I needed to replace a handle on a window and remove a couple of things. It was strange being in the empty house alone. I could see life events in each room appearing as if I had a window into the past. I did shed a tear or two that night.
In late November last year, on the day we took possession from our exiting tenants, all six of us were back in the house for the first time in the summer of 2014. It felt incredibly small. Of course, when we left we didn’t have two teenagers and being in the living room together, even though it was empty, felt like there wasn’t much room.
I didn’t think about it then, but that day in November was the very last time the six of us would be in that house together. Even now as I think about the moment I grabbed this poignant shot of the four girls looking out of what was once Helen and my bedroom I have a lump in my throat.
Onwards and upwards
I have hated every moment of this sale process but now it’s over. We move on now. The past fives years, building a new life in North Yorkshire has always had an element of “what-if” in relation to the house in Dewsbury. Now we can focus on this life and, while we’ll never forget Walnut Grove, we can move on.
Thanks for reading.