One year ago today, the pool timer broke, the air condition fizzled out, and our living room furniture was delivered. That seems like a small thing at first. That the furniture was delivered a year ago today is insignificant at best. That homeownership proved once again to be a bad investment is undoubtedly irrelevant to the story. And when I read our text conversation and looked through the pictures of one year ago today, I glanced over the messages Matt and I exchanged on these topics. But I came back to them. Maybe because I don’t have much to say about the day, which is likely true because we were at a standstill (counting down until July 3rd in 2017, waiting for Duke to call in 2016) but maybe also the story of the day is the furniture. The couch and table and chairs we bought to replace the fifteen-year-old furniture that had traveled to New Jersey with us from our first one bedroom apartment in the city. Maybe the story of today is simply that on June 29, 2017, we completed our forever home.
When Matt and I first started dating, he told me he knew his destiny. When he was born, someone had foretold his future based on his Zodiac sign and the alignment of the stars. He told me he was destined to live in a cabin in the woods, and that the woman he loved would begrudgingly live there with him, for him. I have a feeling his memory of the exact wording adapted to suit his needs over the years. I have a feeling my memory has similarly adapted. But I do remember often telling Matt that if I was, in fact, the woman in the prediction, there was no chance I’d live in a cabin in the woods, even begrudgingly. He’d laugh and tell me I’d love it.
As it turned out, we did live in a cabin in the woods, if I define cabin and woods in the loosest way possible.
We bought a house when I was pregnant with G. Matt admitted he’d had buyer’s remorse from the moment the ink dried on the mortgage. The house was too far from any highways, too isolated. We’d gone from living in bustling Union Square, steps away from a Duane Reade, a Farmer’s Market, and a Tasti-D-Lite, to living in a house nestled against a forest. Our very own cabin in the woods. Destiny foretold. And neither of us was happy.
About a year after buying that house, we were ready for a change. I wish I could say we put more time and thought into buying a second house. But we didn’t. I said in a post back in April that our relationship was marked by speed, snap decisions and a feeling that we always had to rush to the next stage.
It was fate that led us to our true forever house. It was Matt sitting in traffic by the same exit every night on his drive home, calling to tell me if we lived in this town, he’d be home by now. (Like a walking billboard.) It was deciding to make an unscheduled stop at an open house minutes before the realtor left. It was that breath stealing excitement we both felt when we walked in and knew we were home.
Once the ink dried on the mortgage, I told Matt I was never moving again, not even if we won the lotto. I told him we’d done the cabin in the woods, we’d fulfilled his destiny, so now we could check off that box on his fortune.
I could take the story of this day to a dark place. I could write about how the quick progression of Matt’s illness meant we never finished hanging our wedding portraits, which remain stacked in the closet where the painters left them. I could write about how I never knew if I’d wake up to a good day or a bad day for Matt so we stopped inviting company over to see the new furniture.
In post-hope, dipping into that dark place can be too easy. It’s a fact of our new reality I see too often reflected in G, who, regardless of the fun she’s having, never strays far from the harsh truth that her daddy should be there and he’s not. There’s not much to say when she dips into that dark place. I can hold her hand, but I can’t guide her out, even though I’d give everything to do so. The best I can do is acknowledge and validate every word she utters, be honest about my dark places and how I try to find ways out, and hope that’s enough.
Because I’m learning, sometimes the story has to go dark to be honest, to be acknowledged and validated. Sometimes the story has to go dark so you can learn to find the light again.
Dipping into that dark place is, maybe, necessary to recover. But, sometimes, finding a way to skip the dark part means the chance to remember the simple magic of walking into an empty house and knowing you’re home.