A year and a half ago, my life was a bit upside down. I was separated and a month away from filing for divorce. I didn't have much of an income. I was 40 and living at my mom's. I was feeling like a big loser. Amidst all the turmoil, I had hope. The kind of hope that annoyingly bubbles up even when your grumpy self wishes you could kill it with a shotgun and hide the remains in the big box with all your other broken dreams, like being the first woman in space. (Damn you, Sally Ride!) That nagging hope sent me on a detour one day.
May, 2010: I was on my way back from L.A. I had just spent a swanky night hanging out at the Standard, partying on the terrace and later hosting random friends and strangers in my room, eating my 40th birthday cake and being obnoxious until the wee hours. The next day, I wasn't exactly ready to return to my shitty reality, so I did what I do sometimes: drive through neighborhoods, fantasizing about a different life.
That particular day, I found the house I'd been dreaming of. For years, I wanted a little yellow cottage with white trim down by the beach. Nothing fancy. Not everyone's cup of tea. But it was what I wanted. When I drove up and saw it for rent, I was stunned. Then I was pissed. I finally find the house I want and I'm in no position to move into it! But angels showed up and things happened. Less than a month later, I was moving a few boxes, including the one filled with broken dreams, into the rickety little house I lovingly refer to as The Sugar Shack.
In that house, I regained my footing. I began to push back on people that needed it and invite in others that would help me regain the trust I had lost. While I still had some pretty bad days, I found that I could be secure on my own. I couldn't have everything I wanted, but I could live. The house sat somewhat empty as I had given away or sold most of everything except for the necessities: dining table, mattresses, computers. Eventually, I bought some chairs at a resale shop and a small couch from Craigslist. I even bought the kids a bunk bed.
Ahhh, the bunk bed.
That thing was in pieces in a box for a couple of months because I didn't want to have to put it together by myself. I'm sure I could have, but the kids were okay with their mattresses on the floor, so... ya know... it stayed in pieces. I finally felt guilty enough to ask my future ex-husband (whom I had been getting along with for months) to help me put it together so that our kids' beds wouldn't be on the floor anymore. After some begging, he relented.
We chatted and joked a bit while
we he put the bunk bed together. You know those sayings and inside jokes that couples have, just between the two of them? Or how they communicate with their own language? We fell back into it that day. I handed him tools, like I used to. We laughed about the same things like we used to. It was awkward, though, you know... since we were getting divorced. I thanked him with a hug when he was done. He lingered a bit. Then he was gone.
When I shut the door, I had the strangest feeling of sadness that he had left. That this was over. That the language between us was still there, but the "us" was gone. Even though I was so happy to be getting divorced and on with my own life, I suddenly felt awful. I was really going to miss "us".
Which is why I'm really glad he stalked me at the coffee shop the next day. And the day after. Then on the third day, I wore a v-neck (cuz I'm not stupid). After an hour of jibber jabber, he walked me to the car I won back from him in the early, nasty days of the divorce... and then he kissed me.
We called off the divorce.
We got into counseling.
We got the divorce bills, anyway.
So we stayed a the Sugar Shack to pay for counseling and lawyers and get our footing back as a couple and a family. It was tight. 1,000 sq. ft. for two adults and our two rambunctious kids. We knew we had to sit tight for a while, so we sucked it up. We learned to compromise and be patient. That was something new for us. After celebrating our 11th Anniversary (having skipped the 10th), we started talking about our next move. We knew it would be a while, but we at least got some ideas on paper, as it were. We knew we would eventually need a new home... one that we could all live in for years to come.
A couple of months ago, I got that feeling again. We were ready. With a fixed rental limit in mind, I started the house-hunting drives again. I prayed about every place we found. We discussed the pros and cons. If there were too many concessions, it wasn't right. Move on. After stopping and starting the search a few times, and looking at several places, having awkward conversations about two rental histories with too many strangers, we finally found a new home. One with lots of room for a garden to grow and kids to run and a man cave and a large kitchen and fruit trees...
We're still moving the last of the stuff we had at the Sugar Shack, making the ten mile trip inland every time we fill a truckload of boxes up. It's sad not to be able to walk to the beach anymore, but the peace and quiet I'm experiencing here at Casa Jones more than makes up for it.