Are we gearing up to star in a soap opera or a reality T.V. show? We’re switching houses with Mr. Fresh’s first wife and two grown sons. All of my shit is going to be taken out of this old box where I’ve lived for 12 years, put into about 150 boxes and then fitted neatly into that giant white box, then the white box gets picked up by a monster truck and carted over to another box about a mile away. (I’m trying to “contain” the drama by compartmentalization. Is it working?)
Yes, we are buying out her half of the house where their marriage fell apart. Yes, the three of them, with one job between them, and a cat, will rent my old house downtown. “If we were all Vulcans, this plan wouldn’t even raise an eyebrow,” jokes Mr. Fresh every time a friend points out the potential pitfalls.
This old house represents my old dreams. A third of an acre close to public transportation, in a semi-urban suburb. Room for vegetable beds, perennial beds, dedicated space for tender, stellar dahlias. Space to build Gavin his dream studio. Ample sufficiency for a patio where we could dine au naturel 3 seasons of the year and a wild area for a child to explore. Maybe even room for a playset if we strike the jackpot someday.
Ten years later, I understand why they’re called “widows’ weeds.” The garden is overrun, some of them are taller than I am and they’re all much more fertile. Seeds shoot out at your pants cuffs as you forage for the last few string beans of the season.
Halfway through our time here, we did build Gavin’s studio. It’s an architectural beauty, industrial and considerate at the same time. He had a few months to work in it before our daughter was born. Just a few more after that to work, struggling to produce, to meet his expectations while caring for her. And then diagnosis. A few intervals, in between treatments (he was a single-tasker) when he took advantage of the light, the space designed to fit his work habits precisely.
My abandoned room for sewing, beadwork, and silkscreen (etc., etc., etc.) in the lovely loft.
This studio stores paintings, drawings, and prints left over from 30 years of shows. He was lucky to be so successful; 90% of his output is in homes and boardrooms, where it is appreciated, and it left the gallery paid and professionally framed. The oddments (and a few treasures that were held out, NFS) remain to us. What’s left after love.
But the house is also full of his crappy handyman work and that of the husband before us. We never could afford to fix up the house, grade a patio, open up the back windows to see the gardens. The house is a hundred reminders of what didn’t work in our relationship, the decisions about paint colors that we couldn’t peacefully make, two argumentative artists, devoted to being happy together even if things didn’t get done. We couldn’t fix it all ourselves. The heat was on me to produce (money, a child). Love couldn’t extinguish his disease.
I wake up and ask Mr. Fresh like a child on the boat to the New World: “And is it really true? That two people can shower at the same time in the new house?” “Yes.” “What if the dishwasher is running?” “Yes.” “And the laundry, then too?” I wouldn’t be more surprised if we got there and there was hot and cold running milk and honey.
So many widowed bloggers are moving, and we all say “moving on,” appreciating how undescriptive it is, how ambiguous a phrase, how if someone else says it we resist. But it’s sort of true. Still, can’t I move on and also stay? If I’ve had two loves, why not also two homes?
“To move” is such a big word. People say our stories move them. I’d like to think we’re starting a movement of the grieving, perhaps for visibility, perhaps for quiet. What do we need except for our loss to be reversed? At any rate, many of us are working together even if we don’t know what for yet.
So, widows, keep moving, keep talking and sharing and writing. And stay tuned to see find out how this “move” goes. Despite the potential for histrionics, exchanging real property in this economy makes a lot of sense for both households (or all 3, depending on how you count). And thus far, every step has been smooth and easy. Perhaps we’re turning into Vulcans, or at least, examples of Rational Economic Man. Or perhaps we each understand that our backstories are only ours, and not a threat, and that a good coat of bright colored paint can make a new day seem fresh.
Either way, it’s bound to qualify for good ratings.
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