|Geraldine likes to aide my blogging|
I keep feeling prompted to write marriage-related posts after reading other peoples’ thoughts on the topic. Last time it was finances, and now it’s notions of home, space, and sharing with folks who aren’t part of the family, per se. Kate Fridkis @ Eat the Damn Cake, has a great post up about the shocked reactions she got when a friend moved in with her and her husband for a month between leases:
My friend from college needed a place to stay for about a month, in between apartments. Automatically, I said she should stay with us. There’s enough space, so it felt weird not to offer. I mentioned it to Bear. “Of course,” he said. Which was what I expected. I thought it would be weird if he said no.
My friend moved in.
And then everyone else was like, “Oh my god! Are you okay with that?! What about Bear? It’s his home! He must be so upset! Are you guys okay?”
Everyone said that at the same time. They hadn’t even met my friend. Or they had, and they liked her, but they couldn’t believe that this was happening. That I’d allowed this whole other person to move into my home, while I was in it. With my husband. All of us. Together.
“No, no,” I kept saying. “It’s totally fine! It’s nice! She’s really nice!”
“But what about your space?” they kept saying back. “And what about…you know…You need alone time with Bear.”
Space is interesting. I need it. I like it. I like to share it, too. (Also, our bedroom has a door. It can be closed.)
Kate goes on to observe that:
Until my friend moved in for a month, I actually didn’t realize how much I like being around other people. Not just hanging out and talking nonstop, but just being with someone else. Someone who isn’t Bear (I already knew I liked this with Bear, but I thought that was because he was my partner). Glancing up occasionally from whatever you’re doing to share something funny or make a comment about how annoying this guy who keeps emailing everyone on his mailing list to announce his latest accomplishment is. So annoying.
“Oh my god, that is ridiculous!” she says. And you both go back to doing your own thing.
She wasn’t always around, of course. She was at work during the day most of the time. She was gone many evenings, too. But when she was around it was fun to have someone else there.
I’ve written before about my penchant for slightly-chaotic, sprawling households. It probably has something (a lot!) to do with the sort of home I grew up in, the sort of home that feels familiar. I was the eldest of three kids, we were all home-educated for extensive periods of time, and while we definitely had a single-family home and a sense of family boundaries, there were always kids running around, or people passing through, adult friends over for dinner, and on occasion people who needed a place to stay for a bit. We lived close to the center of town (two blocks from City Hall and the public library, six blocks from the college where my dad worked) and from a fairly young age we had run of the neighborhood on foot and by bike, in and out of friends’ houses, drifting back to check in with home-base and then spinning away again.
While I’ve lived on my own for extensive periods of time, and really enjoyed the solitude for what it was, to me creating a home and establishing a family, cues memories of a more communal space, of having people around to chat with when you want to emerge from solitude, of shared meals dished up for whomever came to the table, of people who were interested in what you’d created that day — and whose own daily creations you looked forward to hearing about.
Which isn’t to say I don’t also treasure privacy and alone-time (or couple-time). Hanna and I are in complete agreement that — regardless of what sort of housing situation we end up in over time — we want space(s) that are ours with doors to close between us and the rest of the world. I just don’t associate extended family households with the violation of privacy and/or incompatible with independent adulthood, the way many people in our country do. My childhood home was a space where togetherness was balanced with respect — modeled and, at first, enforced, by parents — for personal privacy and space, as well as negotiated sharing. We had to ask to borrow each others’ stuff; parents knocked on closed doors to gain permission to enter.
So on some level, while Hanna and I have exactly zero plans to move in with our relations on either side of the family, being part of a multi-generational community/neighborhood, and part of a household or cooperative housing situation that extends beyond the (still clearly defined) boundaries of coupledom is part of what family and home means to me.
When we had our friends Diana and Collin to stay for four days at the beginning of June it was slightly crowded in our apartment, but we all thought we wish we could live closer and wouldn’t weekly potlucks be nice and why can’t we all just hang out more often?
We began to miss them from the moment they left for the airport.
I think, for myself, our decision not to parent has contributed to my desire to be deliberate in creating more fluid conceptions of family and home-space. I have the urge to surround our two-person family with single friends, coupled friends, parenting friends, elders and peers, godchildren and companion beasties. Knowing I won’t be establishing an immediate family unit with younger generations folded within it makes me think about how to open up couple-life so that Hanna and I are not hermetically-sealed to all intruders, even as we want very clearly to say: we two shall cleave together from this day forward.
(Though perhaps if we were embarking upon the adventure of parenting wee ones we’d have an equally strong desire to build a support network of adults with whom our kids could form additional secure relationships.)
I thought I was going to have more conclusive thoughts at the end of this post than I do. I find, after typing all of the above, that all I can say thus far is that I know I want, eventually, that more boisterous household/community/neighborhood within which Hanna and I can exist as an indisputable, quasi-private pair.
If I’m still blogging when we find it, I’ll let you know how we arrived there!