One evening, I come home to Kirsty bathing the carpet in the bathtub. It makes me laugh because she doesn’t carry these babies of ours, but she feels their imminence so keenly. We are trying to make the house – if not beautiful, then we are trying to recover the house from the damaged wreaked upon it by four toddlers over the past two and a half years. If I could go back in time and change anything about our home selection process, it would be never to reside anywhere with carpet. Carpet is impossible to manage with small children. And it is difficult to fit in a bath.
We are repainting the walls. Just white, because we rent and we don’t plan to remain here after our lease has expired. We have outgrown this sweet little house now, and it makes me a little wistful because we have loved our time here. If we owned it, I would extend our kitchen out into the garden, and build an extra bedroom upstairs. Perhaps also a loft conversion. I don’t want to leave this house behind – just the carpets. It is just an ordinary little three-bedroom home but it has been dear to us. Our first real family home. We’re only here for another ten months, but we want to make it pretty again. We want to fill it with decoration and personality. And we want to return it to our lovely landlords in the state in which they entrusted it to us. The house smells of newness and paint; I walk through the door of an evening and inhale it in big, calming breaths. If it could speak to me, it would say, You’ve got this.
We buy cacti and succulents and tiny miniature trees that make me feel as though I’ve swallowed the cracker and found myself much, much bigger than I used to be; they fill our windowsills with forests of green and I smile to myself, thinking that in spite of my efforts I am turning into my mother, whose spiritual home is a garden centre. After all those years of traipsing sullenly in her wake, suddenly my own heartbeat quickens when I imagine walking through aisles of purchasable green beauties. How strange it is to grow and to change. There are a few teething issues: the desert plants complain when they are soaked, and the bonsai leaves start to brown and curl after a few days of drought. But on the whole we get on ok, and the plants begin to feel like family too. We give them ridiculous, flamboyant names, Euphrosyne and Melpomene and Nephele, and we use them interchangably, for all of the plants. There is something about them that make us so bloody happy; we find ourselves intentionally standing beside the windowsills more, stroking dirt off of little leaves as we chat. The boys grow pansies from seeds and are astonished when, one day, tiny shoots poke through the dark soil and strain toward the light.
The children’s beds are looking old, so we throw them out and order new ones: cots for the girls, who still need to be safely contained at night, and bunk beds for the boys. The boys’ bunk bed is shaped like a bus and takes a whole day to build but it is worth it for the delight on their faces, the way that they squabble over who will sleep at the top and who will sleep on the bottom, with the coveted steering wheel, before falling asleep in a tangle of boy, together. Even when we put them to bed separately, when we check on them they are always together. Brothers. We spend hours on instagram, and then on pinterest, researching prints for the walls and child-friendly decorations. Kirsty orders kallax units from Ikea, and then sends me to the store after work for the bits that Ikea won’t deliver. I take my mum; we laugh in the car the whole way, and on our way back we eat Daim bars and licorice and those delicious green almondy-chocolate cakes. The car is laden with rugs and plants and mugs; I hold a laundry basket crammed full on my lap, which the baby kicks at as we drive.
I want everything to be ‘nice’ before the baby arrives. I want my children to have space that reflects their personalities, that makes them feel loved and safe. I want to be able to do ‘home tours’ and to film DITLs without strategically avoiding clutter and mess. I want to feel that same sense of well being every time that I walk through the front door, breathing in fresh walls and a sense of belonging.
So we pull out the hard drives and flick through thousands of photographs, selecting some to be printed in big for the walls and others to be printed out small, individual photo frames and to go on the fridge. We have treasured prints that we’ve stored in drawers because the house has never seemed quite ‘ready’ for them; we pull these out and admire them again and promise ourselves that soon, they will be on the walls. We stand in the childrens’ bedrooms, with their new coats of paint and their brand new beds, and we are so pleased with ourselves, with what we have accomplished. I am giddy with admiration for Kirsty, who masterminded most of what has been achieved, whilst I’ve been at work.
It’s not finished yet. It’s not even halfway complete. But everything is coming together and I can finally see how it will be.
What was your experience of ‘nesting’ when you were expecting?