It occurs to me as I wake up slowly this Monday morning in Northampton, where I’ve woken up nearly every other long weekend for over a year and a half, that I never write about Richard’s place as my home. From day one I felt welcome here, could imagine my life going forward with this place and this man in it. Still, when I write, it’s hardly ever here. Even when I write from Somerville, it’s often when I’m alone that I find time to write.
Here we live as a couple. Only occasionally are my kids here. I think this morning as the light comes into the sky, that this is shameful, that I have a life I enjoy apart from my kids, when mothering is meant to be full time.
This morning, I make tea in Richard’s Russell Wright tea pot. I recognized the Russell Wright from a collection our early tenant kept in the china cabinet now full of day care puzzles. I love the clean and modern lines, even as I love the flowery traditional tea pot on the counter in my home, once given to my grandmother by my sister and me, chosen from the local department store, now with a broken handle on the cover, fragile and being replaced by my daughter, who texted me photos of tea pots yesterday as she roamed the Cambridge Antique Market and I visited with Richard’s mom in Connecticut, all of us living our intergenerational, interconnected lives as best we can. For the first time she called Richard when texting and calling me didn’t work, and later when I joined Richard’s mom for coffee and cake, Richard’s mom wondered who had called, the interweaving continued, my children entering Richard’s mother’s world, his life becoming part of ours.
It happens slowly for us, the mixing and the mingling. It’s not a proposal and a sharing of homes and bank accounts kind of thing. I feel unmoored is what I said at bedtime, like I’ve cut loose from the life I used to know and am floating free, untethered from the expectations I used to hold of how life might work out to be.
On Saturday morning I wondered how the holiday and vacation weeks would work. By Saturday midday plans had begun to take shape. Sunday afternoon things developed further. If all goes as expected, I’ll have a holiday and birthday dinner with all my kids, their dad and his wife on Sunday, a Hannukah celebration at Richard’s daughter and son in law’s home with a group they’ve tentatively defined as Framily, possibly including my boys, Christmas Eve as yet to be defined, hopefully with Richard and my boys, Christmas with Richard and my boys and my sister and her family, if we can all make that work.
The second week of school vacation I am scheduled to be kid free, something I accept with some ambivalence. I imagine other mothers having nearly two weeks of time off with their kids, some dreading that, some taking it in with relish. This year my daughter will be in Australia for two and a half weeks including the vacation, the holidays, and her birthday. My older son is home from college for over a month, and the first week was at my home. After nearly a year of hardly seeing him, waking up and going to bed under one roof, all three kids and me, some of it with Richard, some of it even with my mom and her guy Paul and my brother and his son, felt rich in the life of this single mom with shared custody and extended family far away.
It’s a lot of ways to define and feel my way through home. I’m missing the Quakers, who give me a place outside myself. I’m missing Ashfield, where I haven’t been since August. I’m missing friends, who I see rarely outside of those at work. I’m even missing quiet for myself, a walk, some yoga, time to write or think or read.
Maybe it’s like that for everyone. We all have lives we thought we’d live and didn’t, things we’d like to do we don’t. For me, that part of being can feel stronger than I expect it does for most, but that may not be true. I’m working on just being, on avoiding what Wendell Berry so aptly named as “forethought of grief”, a condition I fall into all too easily early in the morning or in the middle of the night when I think of holidays or global warming or roof leaks and repairs, basement floods, home. Attempts to sort it out can feel overwhelming. Today’s challenges range from sorting out a day care opening and missing snow pants and a sub, all from off site, to getting a letter notarized for my daughter’s trip to Australia, even though I don’t have an account at a local bank, to making holiday treats from supplies I brought from my Somerville kitchen, collected around Richard’s kitchen, and stores in Northampton and Connecticut this weekend, and will distribute to the folks in my life I want to know that I remember on the holidays, to paying bills, deciding on a roofer, sorting out the finances, and if all goes well, shopping for the last few gifts, maybe mailing a package to my mom, who isn’t likely to travel this way this year and for the first time in many years will be apart from her children and grandchildren for the holidays. Wish me luck. The tea tastes just the same out of the Russell Wright as it does out of Grandma’s teapot, Yorkshire Gold in both homes, made with half a teaspoon of sugar in both places, lactaid milk at Richard’s, one percent at mine. That, at least, is simple, as is love, if we let it be, which is really what it’s all about.