There is something inherently sacred about the process of making a house into a home. Unpacking boxes and shelving your belongings, sliding things neatly into place until the rooms begin to look something like yours, and the empty boxes outnumber the full ones.
Personally, I think it’s something that, like prayer, is best done at dawn or deep in the depths of night. I like a steaming cup of something in my hands, padding around in silence. I haven’t been up at dawn since O was a newborn, so for me it’s midnight. I wait until everyone else goes to sleep and then I read for a bit – absorbing the stories of other people – and then I walk around. I try to avoid the creaky spots in these old wood floors, and I plot what the backdrop of our stories will look like for the next two years or five years or twenty.
I walk around and try to figure out where to hang my mother’s heavy gilt mirror, or what to bribe Adam with so that he builds me bookshelves before I forget what all of my old favourites look like.
This afternoon I rearranged furniture and hung some pictures. It is slow going, even with Adam’s parents here to occupy Olive. For some reason I feel as though everything has to be very deliberate in this house. Where I’ve always been quick and decisive about how I want our home to look, now I dither and research. I don’t want to rush into anything. These things require thought and care it seems- I’m not racing around with a paintbrush in one hand and a tape measure in the other as I thought I would be.
It doesn’t quite feel like ours yet. But each day adds one more little pebble to the scales, and one day they will tip entirely in our favour and the whole place will feel more like ours than George and Betty’s. Perhaps then the wild abandon will come, and I’ll feel less like I am settling into someone else’s home and making changes they might not approve of.
I made mention before of the long road we took to get here.
Some of you know what that road looked like and felt like, and some are probably feeling in the dark and somewhat baffled by it. I am not quite ready to unpack that story yet, although I can feel it settling and taking shape. The fact remains though that the past months have been some of the most challenging Adam and I have had, personally and as a couple.
So a lot of my midnight pacing has been spent reflecting on our path, too. How we made it here, and what shape we’re in now that we’ve arrived.
We weren’t always kind to each other along the way. We had bright spots where we were Maddie and Adam, the way we’ve always been, but it was mostly a long, painful, frustrating slog and as much as I would like to claim that I triumphed or flourished under adversity, I think it’s more accurate to say that I often crumbled, and lashed out mightily while doing so.
But these days while we unpack the very last of these boxes we are also beginning the process of unpacking what just happened. We’ve started looking hesitantly over our shoulder at the dust receding behind us from when we tore away, tires squealing.
Adam usually joins me for the beginning part of my nocturnal antics, we sit lengthwise at opposite ends of our soft grey couch, feet nestled into each other.
Sometimes we make plans for what to do with the paneling (so much paneling) and the wood (so much wood) in this house of ours. Keep it? Tear it out? Paint it? We can’t quite decide. Adam pries some of it up gingerly with a screwdriver to see what’s underneath but it doesn’t bring us much closer to an answer.
Sometimes we talk about how big the house feels, although it’s not, really.
We talk about Olive and how grown up she seems these days. Sometimes we talk about #2 – a person not-yet-a-person who I continuously refer to (somewhat callously) only as “#2”, never a baby, never a child. A few days ago, to my surprise, we found ourselves talking about whether Olive will be an only. I have never before considered it, but I have been so bogged down lately, so tired and so sluggish. I wonder about my ability to keep up with – and keep organized, keep sane – the herd of four kids that I always pictured. To do this again, the newborn and the sleepless nights and diapers and breastfeeding – I want it. But the thought of it exhausts me. I fear I won’t be able to keep up, I’m running at half-empty as it is.
I am trying to get better at scheduling my time. Most of the time I feel overwhelmed with interview scheduling and babysitters and returning library books on time and cooking – although this stuff isn’t at all complicated or overwhelming, objectively speaking.
I mean, it’s life, right? It is what everyone just does. But I never feel like I am doing it as well or as thoroughly as others do. Things just seem to slip through my fingers and I lose track. I sit here watching others do it and thinking of course.
I thought briefly about scheduling my blog posts – on Monday I will write about my door desk, on Wednesday I will write about potty-training – but as I sit here at 1:30AM with the world sleeping outside my headphones and my music blasting inside (this mix, if anyone would like a soundtrack to play while reading this post) I realize that I virtually never write the post I think I am going to when I start.
I just sit down and begin. I usually have a general direction. A faint skeleton that I will try to flesh out and clothe, animate and try to make dance.
When I am finished however, I’ve built a house instead. I’ve unplugged a waterfall.
When I’ve finished I feel good and empty. I feel like I’ve unpacked another box. I feel a little more like myself than I did when I started.