• Stephanie Hammond

A home of our own

Now there were just the three of us. Me and my little girls, one aged three years three months, the other thirteen months old.

The doctor who confirmed my pregnancy gave my mother some advice we both took on as a guiding principle: “Don’t regret the decisions you make. Just remember you’re doing your best with what you know and understand today.”

I was to remember his words often over the few months and years after my husband died. Now I’d probably do things differently. Perhaps - hindsight is a wonderful thing! I didn’t have the benefit of that hindsight then. Once more, I uprooted my little family and we went to stay with my mother and sister. These were healing times for us all. The little ones brought joy and comfort into our lives and gave us purpose for living. Nights were still hard, but the days were easier.

The company my husband worked for paid all hospital, funeral and moving costs. I got a government accident compensation payout and received a small allowance from the government. Financially, we could stay with mum for a while until we got our bearings.

Every morning at 10 am we gave ourselves a treat. Comfort food - fried banana fritters and ice cream. I began to stuff my feelings of grief down deep with food. We all did, and I often wonder if this is where some of our battles with weight originated.

For the first time ever I was able to make decisions and act on them. I learned to drive and bought a car. I had my hair cut in a modern style and I started to look at our lives and make some plans.

I started to think about getting a home of our own. Because of our situation, I was offered a state house to rent. But renting to me represented impermanence and I wanted stability for my little family who had already lived in many different houses. The life insurance policy we took out barely a year previously was paid out. Buying a home of our own became a possibility and after a while I found a place not too far from my mother’s home. It was a lovely little place in a nice neighbourhood that I was familiar with. Now the money was all gone, but we had a place of our own.

I’ve always been lucky in having good neighbours and in this place they were the best. I couldn’t start the lawn mower one day and asked the chap next door if he’d mind starting it for me. He jumped the fence, started the mower and then began to mow the lawn. When I objected, he looked me straight in the eye and said: “Please don’t deny me the blessings I’ll get by doing this little thing for you.” How could I insist on keeping my pride? Who was I to deny anyone the chance of blessings? I still chuckle at his creative way of doing service. And I’ve played that card myself once or twice.

I was barely 20 and was, as yet, totally unaware of the patterns that were forming in my life. Traits being embedded in my psyche, together with my unacknowledged but innermost longings, would influence my decisions and actions in the months and years to come. Pride was a major driver - even if I masked it in softer terminology like ‘need to be able to do things myself now I’m on my own and responsible for my two little girls’. And loneliness, an inability to be alone with myself, was another major driver.

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