He was here for trick-or-treating. We shared a table for Thanksgiving (a table at a restaurant at a spa, but still, a table). He celebrated his first Christmas in decades with us. We kissed during a New Year's countdown, were together a few days after Valentine's and sped off on a spring break road trip. The summer staycation and inaugural camping trip and lazy Sunday mornings have included him. Birthdays? Together. After drill weekends and weeks, he's come home. To us.
The Not Boyfriend took charge of a school pick-up or two during the week, planned Man Time at parks and Dave & Buster's and chasing kids on the playground with E. He's seen us both sick, come over when the house was a crazy mess, jumped in when I've desperately needed coverage while I attend a school meeting. My nephew, who once called him DatGuy now asks for him by name (by name with an adorable w-sound for the r, but by name).
He's made me many Wednesday-night dinners after E has shuffled off with his dad, met me at the door with cocktails mixed with my favorite gin and extra squeezes of Meyer lemon on days when I feel defeated or stressed or have a lot to say. We have stretched out on his couch, binge-watching season after season of Downton Abbey, Girls and Newsroom. He's lent me full, fresh water bottles before dropping me off at the gym.
He held my fidgeting hands during a mammogram. He sat on the bench beside me and my dad during a court date over long overdue child support and texted me words of calm while I stood ground in a mediation battle over my child being allowed to go to church.
When my dad's best golfing buddy passed away, the Not Boyfriend said he'd love to hit the links with my father and son. He kisses my mother's cheek, both hello and goodbye. And wedges himself into the stepstool to sit and talk with her, offering little cooking tips, while she makes Sunday night dinners. He's arrived with flowers, a raspberry bush for Mother's Day, saved corks for E's ongoing recycled art project.
We have had so many conversations about money and work and dreams and parenting and politics and that one Isaac Mizrahi documentary from the mid-'90's. We have laughed hard. Cursed his upstairs neighbors and the T-Rexes who live below me. Delivered double tall dry soy cappucinos (him) and grande skinny vanilla lattes (me). Argued about whether sexting is important. Been asked to events with both our names on the invitation, been called a family when the three of us are together, driven long distances across and beyond the city to see each other for short amounts of time, just because the other person asked.
We've made plans. Big, dreamy plans. Detailed itinerary-type plans. Real, pragmatic long-term, big-life plans. We've posed a lot of questions. Heard some tough answers. Argued loudly in our apartments and less loudly in a corner of our favorite bar. We've got a favorite bar.
Love-i-versary celebration of our first date, December 2013
We have ventured to new restaurants, popped into the spots his chef friends have opened, and eaten a lot of sushi. We've gone home together, nearly every other weekend since he arrived almost one year ago.
And now it is time to share an address.
I'm nervous. I'm excited. I love him. We love him.
First camping trip, car packed far more full than he could have imagined for a family road trip
We began the process as, apparently, we do this whole relationship: quietly and steadily. That was March. We've explored buying and renting and homes and condos and closer to my place and just around the corner from his. We've worked with agents and dug through Craigslist and walked into places that make us gasp and others that we cannot get out of soon enough.
I've reeled over the boxes and boxes and plastic tubs of stuff in my basement -- unopened wedding china, breast pumps and furniture nobody wants anymore. I've fretted over leaving this nest of neighborhood, my parents only five blocks away and these safe and familiar environs. I've carefully, mindfully seeded the idea with E in conversations for months and months.
And then I see a home with a room that has a steep-eved ceiling and a closet that would make the perfect hideaway for a boy who loves to read. Or a kitchen my love of a chef would love to cook in. Or a room flooded with sunlight that could be full of inspiration and quiet, where I could type, type, tap away on my laptop. Then the tears come. And the relief. And the time-softened blanket of security.
"This could be our home," I think. "Where our family lives. Together."
One little thought, a change of zip code, an extra bedroom or two -- in the big map of our lives, it is a small town. Maybe a frontage road connecting major interstates and big cities. But to me, it takes up much more space.
The day we moved in to our place, April 2008
Inside this home, the one I created with a very small child when I had a very demanding job and was under the weight of some very heavy stress, we have normalized a life. We've got a good gig going, stomping neighbors and piles of papers and too few closets included. And in this home, I have built walls of protection after times of trauma and mistrust. I've buried my marriage and the baby years in the basement, set up shop with my desk in the corner and hung galleries of photos of my boy and I together and laughing and hugging.
His first big-boy bed, brand new
This safe space is too small for another person. So now it is time to pack up and push the pedal, driving a very full car on to a dirt road that feels like a freeway.
We'll go together. Like we have during many moments this year. It will be kind of scary for us all. But the best stuff always feels a little like that. For three years, once upon a time, the monthly miles we traveled were in the air, and alone, full-speed ahead to meet for 48 hours. Who knew this is how where that would lead? (We hoped, but who could know for sure?)
When I know where we'll exit and when, I'll share the good news. For now, we - the Not Boyfriend, my boy and me - will stay just a tick under the speed limit, hugging the curves and holding hands as we go.