Finally. We are in touching distance of completing the purchase of our new house. The end of October will see the arrival of dark nights but a gentle glow will be warming our hearts as we set about creating our forever home, together, as a family. Since our return to the UK we have spent the past four months living with my parents.
It has been an interesting experience for many reasons (especially for my husband) but not least because we have all survived. There have been no major arguments, virtually no teenage strops and, surprisingly, limited door slamming. The children have not just survived but have positively thrived by having Grandma and Grandad on hand 24/7. After a year of limited contact it could have gone either way and, although they got on well together before, they have now become friends not just relations. It has been a delight watching their bonds deepen and both parties appreciating each others qualities. The generation gap being a source of inspiration rather than frustration.
The benefits of intergenerational living are appreciated by so many cultures, yet we Brits seem to view it as a hinderance to independence. Confusing familial closeness with a cloying suffocation, battling against it and running to ‘freedom’ as soon as the means become available. Fleeing to the other ends of the country to go to University despite the high tuition fees and escalating living costs, preferring to leave academia with huge debts and at the end of it all returning to a room still carrying the marks of our childhood. We return from Uni as adults, but our parents have missed out on these formative years and so still see us as the naive eighteen year olds that had set out with the duvet, pop posters (and the hidden teddy) piled in the back of the car three years previously. It is no wonder then that there is a discord between the generations as our parents try to find the similarities between the children that left and the adults that have returned.
My mother is from Italian descent and it has always amazed me, when looking at our distant Neapolitan cousins, that they remain with the family. They don’t just eat together, they live together. I really do mean live together. Not only is childhood shared among the generations but so too is the heartbreak and ecstasy of adulthood. It is a truly wonderful, awe-inspiring thing. The genetic closeness between siblings, parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, gives life a richness and depth that I simply cannot imagine.
My intention for this blog post was to write about the fact that in the past four months we have had just one suitcase full of belongings each. I was going to marvel at the fact that we have been able to survive with so few material things; that the children didn’t need boxes of toys to keep them happy. Whilst we shall be glad to have our own space and be surrounded by our own belongings when we move into our new house, I think that we shall all miss the steading presence of my parents. Yes, frustrating at times, but on the whole a reassuring presence. A presence that has given my children a security and confidence that I haven’t seen in them before. And so, it appears that the fact that actually needed to be acknowledged was simply that if you have love and security then you need surprisingly little else.