We moved into our first rented flat one sunny June morning.
The flat was in an old pre-loved building that used to be a hotel. It needed a lick of paint or two, but it was all bay windows, high ceilings and big rooms. It faced out onto a park. There was no road in front, no cars. Just space.
When we moved in, I knew it would be special. I knew the moment I threw open the large sash window in the living room that it would be a significant time. Life-altering. There really is no place like home.
The sun used to live in the lounge. It would ripple across the carpet and warm my toes. It was so light all the time. It was beautiful to me. I’m drawn to that sort of light.
Don’t get me wrong, the flat was cold. Not just cold, but frost on the inside of the windows cold. Regularly reaching highs of 7 degrees cold. But it always light. It made me feel light too. I miss that flat almost every day.
The day went rented the flat was a spur-of-the-moment decision, but then at the same time it wasn’t. My boyfriend (now husband) hadn’t seen it, it had been on the market for mere hours. But I’ve always known I was going to live there. It was fate; I suppose.
Years ago, on a snowy blue-sky day, I’d walked across the park by that flat and I’d looked up at the aged grandeur of the houses stretching across the Broadwalk and I’d said to my friend:
I’m going to live there one day. That’s my dream house location.
I don’t remember how the rest of that story went.
It was most likely the Narnia lamps that sold it to me. Growing up, I’m sure we watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe most weekends. It’s why Turkish delight freaks me out to this day and it’s why every time I take my kids (that don’t exist yet) to holiday homes and cottages, we’re all going to rush to the wardrobes before we even take our coats off, just to see if we’ve found ‘it’.
But it’s also because I was in awe of the people who got to live in that park. I was jealous. They opened their front door to green space, to birds and to trees and water and even more space. (I mean, they could have warned us about the noise of the ducks, but like most things in life, you get used to it.)
How did I know?
How do any of us know?
I felt it. I’m sure you’ve been there too, when you can feel that a moment is happening. That it’s something you’ll never forget.
I just knew I’d live in that park.
I just knew it would be one of the homes I loved the most.
I bought a wall sticker the week we moved in to prove it: “These are the good old days”.
It was like I was declaring it over the space, predicting the future and confirming my hopes with words to live by.
I’ve lost track of the nights that turned into mornings in that flat.
The Proseccos’ that turned into spilt drinks, and the laughter that turned into tears. The new years’ we welcomed in. That time the police came round and commented on my unicorn slippers. The remaking of the sofa bed, the washing of guest towels, time and time again. The baking of cakes. The card games. The Jungle Speed fights. The expansion pack. The parties. The neighbours never complained.
The way I’d open the door and sit in the park, whilst staring up at my window. I needed that open space. That time we made up a game of bush tucker trials. The time we had mice.
All of these things were the good old days. Right then in that moment, and still now as I look back.
Time ticked on.
From one year to the next, as we moulded ourselves to the shape of the house, it stretched and grew as much as it could, but eventually the time came to give back the keys. It was only ours for a time.
As we packed the boxes and cleaned the floors, we took the wall sticker down. And that sun that I’d loved so much, it had bleached the walls with its power. Leaving the words from our sticker tattooed in a darker shade of paint, staining the wall forever. It was like our time in that flat has been sealed into the fabric of its existence.
Our good old days were permanently marked.
With the help of (a lot of) colour testing paint pots, we got those words covered. It remained our secret, and our rental deposit returned.
Yet weeks later, as we looked at ‘our flat’ on Rightmove listed for rent once more, we noticed something. If you looked closely at the listing, if you knew where to look in the pictures, the words from our wall sticker – they were still visible.
The good old days are alive and kicking.
You see, when we are living in a moment, yet we take a second to actually notice it, to step aside and see it, and know that it’s special. When we declare that we’ll look back at a particular time in our life with joy, we can create more of these moments in our lives. Because it’s the noticing that makes them special.
When we are active in designing our lives and when we are documenting our lives, we are living with intention and purpose. We’re noticing.
And in that noticing, we can see we’re just moving from one ‘good old days’ to the next.
I wondered what words we’d bring to our new house. I wondered what words we’d speak over this next chapter in our lives, and I kept coming up blank.
And then, after three years in storage, we finally uncovered something that seemed to fit. And we’d had it all along. We’d dragged it from our first flat. It had been sitting dusty and unloved: “Happily ever after”.
These words adorned the walls of our wedding and there are now waiting for us at the top of the stairs. Here’s to the start of the next ‘good old days’ and here’s to the ‘happily ever after’.
What words will you speak over your life? What will you declare this the season of? What is happening in your life now that you’ll look back on and say wow – these are the good old days? What memories to do you treasure?
Notice your life.
Stories From A Backpack is a place that celebrates the process of documenting our life through stories. You don’t have to see yourself as a writer to want to document your life. You can start to save your memories and share your story today.
Become an Everyday Storyteller by writing about your life. Your story matters and Stories From A Backpack is here to help you live a life worth writing about. Join our monthly newsletter to become an Everyday Storyteller with us. Or buy the book Everyday Storytellers and learn how to turn your memories into stories.