I sincerely hope that things go the way she is planning -- house, wedding, not long after, baby. But it has put me in a bit of a funk hearing that on replay in my mind since last night, because once upon a time I felt that way too -- so sure of how things would work out.
I remember when we were talking about getting married, before we were engaged, we had breakfast at this place that no longer exists and discussed the pros and cons of marriage. One of the things that weighed heavily on me was that I didn't want to be unmarried and have a child together, and I was straightforward from the beginning that I really wanted to have a child. One part of the discussion was that we could get married in a couple years, maybe four, but I indignantly exclaimed, "I'll be THIRTY SIX in four years! Remember? Babies?"
We did get married when I was thirty-three, a decent enough age, but I was an untenured special education teacher that first year. I remember thinking that I wasn't being positive enough because while I really wanted to get pregnant, and that was the Year of the IUIs, I had some relief that it didn't happen when I was still probationary and hoping for a tenure track position. I remember weighing in my head the impact of maternity leave on my newly-accumulating seniority, thinking on how much (or, then, how little) I'd be able to take and still be pretty safe in my job.
Clearly, all that worrying was completely unnecessary.
Still, hearing this young woman talking so optimistically about the accepted progression and be encouraged by other dancers (all of whom had children), "Oh, yeah, you don't want to go out on maternity leave untenured," as if it is a done deal, as if that is just what happens. But for me, it reminded me of the alternate reality that never unfolded, of the possibility I once felt but is forever lost to me.
We've also been in a mode this summer of really evaluating our house, and deciding if we should stay with minimal renovation to fix the garage as is and the poorly constructed back room against the garage, do a major renovation with the garage and back room and a room above the garage to enjoy the wooded backyard and gain more living space, or fix what needs to be fixed and move to a home that has a functional garage and more driveway and a basement that won't give Bryce a concussion, among other things.
We've met with a couple contractors and a realtor. And every time we talk about the addition, we mention that we had plans drawn up previously, but that OUR NEEDS HAVE CHANGED, and so we can have a different kind of addition since we really don't need additional bedrooms.
The first time we said that to a contractor I immediately teared up, because while it was a clean way to sum up "our entire vision of what our life was going to look like imploded and we're never having children and so we just want a house that works for the two of us," it still makes me sad. It's a heavy four words.
But it's true -- we don't need our house to be a family house. And, as Bryce said when we were chatting about it for the fifteen zillionth time, it's weird how our house really acclimated itself rather quickly to a home with no children. All of our furniture purchases, our revamping of the nursery to my office and the living room to have multiple seating options and be more open... it all worked seamlessly. It's almost like the house didn't want us to have children, which I know is a totally loopy and strange thing to say, but it feels sort of true. Even through our jokes of "what's buried under this house, ha ha" when things went so spectacularly wrong, there was truth of this FEELING that the house didn't cooperate with our wishes for children, that there was a weird incompatibility there. It doesn't help that Bryce had dreams of a dark and malevolent force that was somehow central in our house and there were several times in the two week wait where I got searing low belly pain at the same time that Bryce had a dream like that, which is just plain weird. But we could also just be grasping at any reason, no matter how unlikely, that things just didn't work out for us any way we tried.
Today though, the person we met with who is both a realtor and a renovator, he said, "It's fine that you don't need to have more bedrooms for you, but if you ever sell this house you'll want to have bedroom space added if you do an addition, because it will make it more marketable."
And then I got that feeling again like at after-tap drinks... EVERYONE ELSE follows the progression. OF COURSE, the likelihood of some other couple without kids who love gardening and woodworking and music and scads and scads of books coming to buy our home is not high. OF COURSE it's probably going to be people who expect to have a baby or two, who are looking for a family home. Because that's what people do. That's the expected progression.
Again the life I thought I'd have, but will never come to pass.
It made me sad. All of this talk about the house and how it's evolved is exciting, and it points to the life that we DO have, which is not sad at all. BUT. It opened wounds I felt were developing a thin layer of scar tissue, and left me standing in the backyard, weeping, just overwhelmed with this idea of our house as two homes -- the one that was supposed to be, and the one that it is, and how we have plans for both possibilities and only one will come to fruition. It was like seeing the ghost of the family we would have been like a transparency over our existing blueprint, able to be seen but impossible to grasp. Utterly intangible.
I was so, so, so very sad. I wept for the children that didn't come. I wept for the father Bryce will never be. I wept for the mother trapped inside me who will only ever parent indirectly, sideways. I wept for the life I thought I'd have.
I made Bryce concerned that I'm not happy. Which is not the case at all. I am happy, and so grateful for our life, our marriage, and our beautiful, cozy home. Our life is NOT sad. I am not mourning this life, because it is downright magical. I'm mourning the other life that seems further and further away, the one that I was once so sure could be ours with a little hard work and a bullheaded insistence that it HAD to happen for us just because no other alternative made any sense at all.
After standing there in my sweaty bathing suit top, covered in dirt from pounding in edging in my patio border garden, Bryce finally ignoring my pleas to not hug me because I was totally gross, I decided that the medicine for my melancholy was MORE GARDENING. I may not have a baby, or a child, and I may not need another bedroom for another human in our home, but I have a lot of plants and garden space. And I can do something about that.
I can create space for more plants, and beautify existing spaces, and weed out unpleasantness so that my beautiful flowers can grow unimpeded. I can eke out a little control over my life with hard pruning of out of control, invasive honeysuckle. I can chase the sadness away with a little sweat equity. I can then sit back and appreciate the life I DO have, where I can garden as much as I'd like and not have to worry about keeping an eye on my child, where I can sleep in because we decided to have Thunderstorm Wine last night to celebrate the first storm we were both home for, where we can go see Monty Python's The Holy Grail with John Cleese speaking in person tonight and not need a babysitter.
It was just what I needed. I pruned, I weeded, I pounded, I sweat, and I even discovered a little treat. I'll always be sad about the life I thought I'd have but don't, but I am so very fortunate for the one that did come to fruition, which has so much enjoyment and beauty in what we do have.
|See all that edging, sort of like a raised bed? I POUNDED ALL TWENTY FEET OF THAT.|
|This is what it looked like before, just sort of spilling over onto the driveway, messy messy and likely to wash away.|
|See that crazy bush to the left, against the fence?|
|GONE! And in its place a funky stumpy unicorn.|
|While pruning I was visited by this little guy -- a wood frog! Never seen one in the garden before.|
|He's got neat markings. Cute little guy. I felt like he came by to say, "you're okay."|
(Or I live close to woods, so he was just pissed I disrupted his habitat with my therapeutic pruning.)
|Yesterday before tap, sitting under our redbud tree which is now big enough to sit under in the shade, admiring the garden and feeling real lucky.|