• Leonie Lewis

A Retiring home?

I looked up a definition of a retirement home and saw the familiar meaning - a home for those more senior residents living out their last few years either independently, in a supported environment or less independently through assisted care. Not as my grandkids understood, a place to live if you retire from work!

Why am I discussing retirement homes? The reason being, my home for 35 years, a physical building, is retiring from its use.

It’s come to the end of its useful existence. In 6 months a traditional 1930s building together with three other similar houses belonging to our neighbours, will be knocked down and replaced by 26 flats. Progress of sorts and the provision of much needed homes in our area of Harrow.

It is said walls have ears and home is where the heart is;

well, my home has been at the heart of our family and dare I say it, community, for over 35 years.

What is a house?

A house is just four walls and a roof, but a home is made up of everything else inside.

A house may be decorated from floor to ceiling with the finest furnishings’ money can buy. But that will never ever make it a home. A home is a sanctuary. Home is comfort. Home is inviting. Home is a refuge from the world. Home is where there is a junk drawer that needs organising. And laundry piling up.

Home is where you celebrate that there are messy piles everywhere. Because those messy piles mean you have loved ones among you.

Home is where you are surrounded by the simple possessions that make you smile and decorated with your favourite things. Home is filled with your personal touches and your sentimental collections.

All houses probably have their own uniqueness, a Jewish home is no exception having special smells and tastes and symbols.

The small case on the doorpost of a Jewish home, known as a Mezuzah, is a unique feature, Containing religious scriptures and reminding us of our identity ,G-d`s protection and holiness. What makes the Mezuzah important is the concept that the doorpost is the dividing line between the swirl of the outside world and the sanctity and safe haven of the home.

My home has seen celebrations and sadness, Barmitzvahs and Shivas (Jewish periods of mourning). My two sons, Adam and Ben, kicked balls in the garden with friends, smashing at least two back room windows, (Ben) jumped off the flat roof of our extension, competitively played board and other games, Risk, was the biggest cause of their many physical arguments, they laughed and cried, suffered childhood illnesses including measles, (Adam) cooked pasta and pancakes in the kitchen and roasted chestnuts, burning both chestnuts and the oven.

My husband, Howard,now also retiring, and I, enjoyed family Jewish festivals, often with additional friends. The Lewis Family Haggadah (story of Passover and read on the two nights of the Festival in the home, is legendary);Our Chanukah parties are also remembered fondly. Living on the main Uxbridge Road, friends brought their Chanukiahs (7 branched candelabras) and these were lit and displayed on the mantelpiece in our front room. We all sang with gusto the traditional songs and ate non healthy foods, fried in oil,including yummy doughnuts and potato pancakes, latkes.

Eating and entertaining guests, especially over the Sabbath was important. the walls of our house seemed to always expand, expand with love and fun.

Our dining room lounge could accommodate fairly large numbers seated so we shared many occasions, making special parties for the children of our friends, to celebrate their weddings, and most recently in the early Summer, hosting a big tea and learning session for women. of our synagogue community.

I remember two particular parties, one with a giant chocolate fountain in the middle of the room, like the Vicar of Dibley, I simply wanted to immerse myself in the delicious dripping liquid!

Another party saw our good friends set up their small 60`s style group in this room, playing familiar pop music, leading to a conga line in the hall and then through to the front room.

An upright piano, encouraging my boys to play, was in the hall and during this party an expert performance of familiar piano jazz was given by another friend ,my hubby’s client, sadly like many others, no longer with us.

Our home had its fair share of grief too.

My parents celebrated their 40th wedding Anniversary in our home, in our garden, it was to be their last anniversary.

My mum spent the Sunday before she passed away watching our oldest son enjoy his 4th birthday. My father was taken to hospital in an ambulance, from our home following a shabbat weekend, 10 years later, he died, in hospital soon after.

The image of my mum sitting on a chair, in our hall, outside the lounge looking into Adam's birthday party is one I treasure but one of immense sadness.

As we box up things we are keeping, its the items we are throwing out and or giving away to charity shops, including board games, forgotten toys books and more books, useless ornaments and videos, we are not just preparing to downsize and move to a new house, but reminding ourselves of sad and happy times. Of what has made our house a home.

Thank you 659 Uxbridge Road.... onto our next chapter.

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