I’m moving out of my house, the Lucky 5 Star, at the end of this month. I’m not happy about it. I bemoan my impending move to anyone who will listen.

Last night I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself — for a few hours at least — and do something to celebrate this awesome house. I invited a few friends over for a Lucky 5 Star House-Cooling. (A house-cooling is the opposite of a house-warming. Thanks to Martina in Jozi for introducing me to this expression.)

It was the perfect summer evening for a party, and a perfect opportunity to enjoy the new view of the Melville Koppies from my back garden.

View from behind the Lucky 5 Star after half a tree fell two weeks ago.

The Lucky 5 Star House-Cooling taught me a lot about myself. To explain, I need to travel back in time for a minute.

I’m thinking back to the last house-warming party I had, many years ago in Alexandria, Virginia. I threw the party with my then-fiancé (now ex-husband), in a townhouse we’d just bought in a suburban community outside Washington D.C. Everything was planned to the last detail. The house was filled with new furniture and arranged just-so. There were at least 30 or 40 people at the party, scattered through the three floors of the house and the deck. There was a ton of perfectly prepared food and lots of booze. It was a fun party.

But it wasn’t my party.

Few of the guests at that house-warming party were my friends. They were my fiancé’s friends, who I’d adopted as mine. I wasn’t very outgoing back then and while I had lots of friendly acquaintances through work, I didn’t have many close friends. My fiancé’s guest list was a page long. Mine was a handful.

And while I didn’t realize this at the time, that house wasn’t home to me. Hard as I tried, I could never get comfortable there. It took several years (and many thousands of dollars) for me to figure out that no amount of remodeling or redecorating could change the fact that I was in the wrong place. I was living someone else’s life, not mine.

Fast-forward to now. I’m living in a foreign country, in a house that isn’t mine, with very few possessions. The person who brought me here, who I had hoped to spend the rest of my life with, has gone away. I don’t know if he’s coming back, and learning to accept this reality is the toughest challenge I’ve ever faced.

My life is uncertain in every possible way. Yet I know that I’m home. I know this because of the Lucky 5 Star House-Cooling.

The House-Cooling.

I put very little planning into this gathering. I bought a few packages of sausage, some wine and soft drinks, and a few things from the fruit and veg shop. I straightened up the clutter, prepared two salads and some brownies. I plugged my iPod into the stereo. This was the first party I’ve ever hosted on my own.

The biggest challenge was figuring out who to invite. I’ve met so many great people in Joburg, especially over the last few months. But I wanted this to be a low-stress event. I’m short on chairs and cutlery. For the first time ever, I had to force myself to keep the guest list short, rather than wracking my brain for more people to invite.

My life is more transient then it’s ever been, yet I have more friends than I’ve ever had before.

Every guest at the house-cooling was invited for a reason. Some of them I met very recently and recognized as kindred spirits. Others I’ve known quite a while. Several have helped me in unbelievably generous ways in recent weeks — opening their homes when I needed somewhere to stay, driving me places, listening to me cry, or trying to make me laugh. You know who you are, people. I can never do or say enough to thank you, but hopefully the Lucky 5 Star House-Cooling was a start.

My friends enjoy the Lucky 5 Star deck.

This was the best party I’ve ever hosted. I had fun and I could tell that everyone else did too. Every guest pitched in, bringing food and drinks and helping with the braai. People talked and laughed and exchanged business cards. Horst did the dishes, for which I am eternally grateful. Lucky made a celebrity guest appearance.  Several people commented that I have a really cool group of friends. My friends.

There was one party-crasher: the Melville Cat. I don’t have photographic evidence because he arrived after dark and I was having too much fun to take many pictures. I’m not sure how Smokey-Squeak found out about the party — I didn’t invite him and he usually doesn’t have time for me on weekends. I think maybe he smelled the chicken on the braai. At any rate, the Melville Cat was a hit and I’m glad he came.

Home isn’t a place for me anymore. It’s a state of being. I guess I came to Jozi to learn that.

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