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Flashback

January 20, 2011

A friend of a friend, someone I’d met once last summer at the pool and liked very much, sent me an email last night. She’s divorced, a professor, with two young kids, and she and her boyfriend (also divorced, with two young kids) are looking for an old enormous house with a big yard. (God bless the small town grapevine. She mentioned this to an entirely different acquaintance of mine, who mentioned my house, and then the email came. My house is not officially on the market and I have been lying awake rather frequently of a night, wondering whether to bother this year, or not.)

So we called each other after our kids were all in bed, and I described the house. I said that it was really the perfect house for two adults and four kids, because roughly once a month my boyfriend and his girls come down and stay overnight, and what seems sprawling and unnecessary when it’s just my kids and me suddenly seems cozy and delightful when it’s all of us. I talked about the yard, about the many changes my ex-husband and I sank money into when we bought the house from a weird old guy with an Amish beard who’d lived in it for 35 years. His wife had died, his kids were grown, and the rooms smelled of cigarettes and loneliness. I described the deck we put on, the new floors, the lovely porch, the beautiful windows. “It would be absolutely perfect for you,” I said, “because there are four kid-sized bedrooms on the second floor, and two bathrooms, and that’s the whole second floor. The third floor has a beautiful room I use for my office, and a big room we use as a kind of playroom, and then the lovely third floor bedroom….” I stopped. She chattered happily about how she and her boyfriend were finally moving in together, how well all four of their kids got along, how wonderful it would be, although she was, of course, a bit skittish about the whole thing–what divorced person wouldn’t be?

After we hung up–she’s coming with her boyfriend to look at the place this afternoon, which means I’d better get cleaning–I sat perfectly still for a few minutes. (After all, I’d just gotten back from a yoga class in which the instructor had ordered us to “watch our emotions as if they were images in a film.”) There were the old feelings, doing battle with each other–God oh god please god let me sell the house wielding a mop, breathing fire, while Shit shit shit where will we GO cowered miserably in the corner by the radiator, chewing her nails. But we just hung all those pictures and we’re getting a cat knocked firmly on the door. And don’t forget me, a beautifully dressed foreign exchange student tenant for the second floor bedroom said in a charming accent. You were just about to find me, weren’t you?

I thought about the fox, and how the children and I watched him cavorting spookily in the middle of last week’s snowstorm, running and sniffing in the freezing dark. I thought about the sharp-shinned hawk my boyfriend pointed out the other day, sitting low in the bushes outside the kitchen; yesterday I saw him again, in the frozen butterfly bush right next to the porch, a few feet from the birdfeeder. He flew lazily across the yard to the top rail of the wooden fence, then scooted along it like a parrot before hopping into my neighbor’s juniper bushes. I thought about how I’d finally decided, Fuck it, I’m staying, and how I’d decided to put the furniture and pictures where I wanted them, both to make the house feel different from its marital configuration (and it did, it does, it’s starting to) and how I’d vowed to paint my younger son’s bedroom whatever color he wanted (a Martha Stewart seaglass green), against the advice of the realtor, who knows that potential buyers do not take kindly to whimsy.

I thought about the fact that my older son just learned how to split wood, and how we have fires almost every night now, curled up doing homework or reading on our battered old sofas or on the floor. I thought about the spring, and how lovely the porch is, and about the owl I hear at night. Then I thought about the taxes, the utility bills, the ancient furnace in the basement, the trees that fall and have to be removed, the lawn, the detritus of a decade piled in basement and closets and garage. All these possessions feel like millstones around my neck. I thought about renting a small place, a cottage, an apartment, someone’s sublet house, whatever, and simply writing one check every month. I thought about having something break and calling a landlord and having him or her send someone–for free!–to fix it. I thought about living a semi-nomadic life in our town, flitting from sabbatical sublet to sabbatical sublet (“But what will you do with US?” my books wailed in unison) and having the fun of getting to know different little neighborhoods well, of shaking things up a bit.

I thought how funny it was that someone whose situation mimicked mine, structurally, might be taking over the house. My boyfriend and I will not live together–whether or not we want to isn’t even an issue, because we can’t. Jobs and kids and the location of ex-spouses prevent all thought of it, for all the foreseeable future. And I used to feel sad about it, or at least worried that I SHOULD want it, or disagreeably torn–half my life was elsewhere, and half was here! How would I ever survive?

Well, of course, the answer to “how will I survive” turns out to be idiotically simple–you just do. Though I hadn’t quite noticed (how stupid humans are, so alert to every prickle of discomfort, yet unable to recognize huge arenas of contentedness) I’m happy now, even with my divvied-up, haphazard, inconvenient and inconsistent weeks and days. I don’t want to be married again, to merge households with anyone else. I am used to this life now, and can see it expanding into ever-happier directions, if that makes sense. Instead of hopping back into the snuggery of cohabitation, I want nothing more than the very life I have now. And so, dear readers, chant a little wish for me–whichever you choose, that we stay, that we go, that we sell, that we become landlords, that we become tenants. I admit I feel a pang when I think of the cottage formerly known as Dream, now forever gone, but something else will turn up, if indeed these people want the house, won’t it? It must.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Anne permalink
    January 20, 2011 11:35 am

    Good luck! I will cross all possible appendages in hopes that things work out in the best way possible.

  2. kath permalink
    January 20, 2011 11:43 am

    of course it will all work out – it has to.
    i love your blog….
    xo

  3. January 20, 2011 11:49 am

    Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Sounds like you have the right attitude, but still, I hope they buy it.

  4. Leah permalink
    January 20, 2011 3:39 pm

    I’m a relatively new reader finally delurking to comment. I love your posts and visit daily, in hopes of discovering a new musing from you. As someone who spent her entire childhood in an old Victorian house (in a small college town), I’m perhaps too attached to the nostalgic notion of a sense of place. I’ve imbued each adult home I’ve loved and left with all the memories and emotions I experienced there, and it’s been terribly, devastatingly hard to move on sometimes. Would this be the case for you? And what do your boys think? Would they be okay with moving, or would it be sad for them? I realize there are no easy answers, but I’m almost certain you’ll find joy in either direction, given your new perspective. 🙂

  5. January 20, 2011 6:32 pm

    If ever a blog post defined bittersweet…

  6. January 20, 2011 8:48 pm

    Sigh… Definitely what Andi said….bittersweet.

  7. January 21, 2011 12:59 am

    Why can’t there just be an easy answer to this one? Ah, it’s life, darn it. And all its complicated wonderful, frustratingness.

    I know your heart is good and that it will be good wherever it is housed. And that means so will the hearts of your children…

  8. January 21, 2011 1:43 am

    It will.

  9. January 21, 2011 9:00 am

    It looks to me as if you can’t lose.

    If they buy it, you can look for another perfect cottage. If they don’t you’ll stay in your lovely big old house.

    I know it’s hard (or impossible) not to get invested in one desired outcome, so I’m not being flip here, but it does seem as if you should theoretically be able to relax and wait and see. . . Tell the voices in your corners “as you were” for a bit.

    I’m hoping for your serenity.

  10. Celeste permalink
    January 21, 2011 4:14 pm

    Here’s hoping for a sale so you can go forward. You might not find the perfect roost on your first try, but it’s out there. Seek and you will find.

  11. alex catherwood permalink
    January 21, 2011 5:03 pm

    a very thought-provoking blog – yes indeed. I am on my own – one kid here the two older ones come and go. Altho I havent got a new partnr (much as I’d like that) it just hasnt happened but if I had I would still prefer my own domain as I am really comfortable with myself and inspired to do so many outgoing things – I would lose that if I co habited. Still want my romance tho’! best wishes

  12. January 21, 2011 8:24 pm

    i know you’ll be able to make a home out of wherever you move to if you do sell your current house. keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes your way! good luck!

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