Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Having the house to ourselves these past three days has been a miracle. Space. Time. Drinking coffee in the morning, looking at the paper, knowing no one else is going to come barging through. Hearing C play piano fully and joyously, without fear of being overheard. Sun coming in the window, or cool gray fog. No one else using our bathroom. Going to Goodwill and getting rid of a carload full of the detritus left by ten years' worth of housemates (there is still more to go!)

Today I feel small and tired. I want to protect this space, this time, our home, but in a week and a half the real crunch of teaching work hits, and the housemates who are now on vacation will be coming back. The thought of it makes me want to cry.

This house was always too big for me to hold alone. I bought it with someone else. Many many other people have lived here with me--too many to count. I get exhausted just thinking about it. Their rents helped pay the mortgage. Some of them improved the space and were a joy to live with (that would be you, John and Val!) Some of them were a pain in the ass. Several drank too much; one was polyamorous and had NO boundaries and way too many lovers who would drape themselves all over the kitchen and talk about different kinds of orgasms while I tried to make tea. For some I was a counselor, or a surrogate big sister, for some a friend. For some I became The Enemy.

It's hard living with people when you are not related to them. (It's hard when you are related to them.) It's not like I didn't get something out of the deal--I was able to afford to stay in the Bay Area, one of the most expensive places in the country, while essentially working part-time as a teacher and part-time as a writer. That's a lot.

But this space and this privacy we're experiencing right now are precious beyond compare. There is a level of relaxation we can touch as a couple, knowing we can kiss or argue or talk about intimate things anywhere we want without fear of someone walking in or overhearing us. It's a luxury we haven't had as a couple, a luxury I discounted because I didn't realize how great it was.

I was always scared to be "just" a couple. It reminded me too much of the nuclear family I came from, an arrangement that seemed isolating and stressful, especially for the mother. When I lived with my ex-husband, our first four years were spent in a communal house--we had great rent and were a five-minute walk to Harvard Square. It wasn't worth it. The stress it put on our relationship was damaging. You would think I'd learn.

I've learned that luxury resorts doesn't do that much for me. I've been in fancy hotels and eaten in great restaurants and seen Europe and it's fine, but if I never see it again, I won't be sad. I like just being in my own home, dancing with my honey in the kitchen.

The truth is, I am feeling spoiled and happy and guilty and scared wallowing in the simple pleasure of just being alone with C. Being two selfish artists, making as much of a racket or demanding as much silence as we need. The guilt is that the paradigm of the couple in their castle doesn't serve the world. We have more space than most people and we still want more, more more of it--all to ourselves.

The fear is that C will die and then I'll be all alone in this big house. Who will be there for me then? Will I drown in the silence and the space? Will I be punished for putting up some boundaries? Will the punishment be isolation?


Laurie Menard said...

Hello Alison, I just wanted to tell you I LOVED your article in The Sun this month. You remind me so much of my daughter-in-law, so I thought I'd refer you to her blog at www.toddlerspit.blog.com so you can enjoy her kindred spirit.

I run a political blog at www.thomasinapaine.blogspot.com, a blog that suffers badly from outrage fatigue. But there you are.

Thanks again.

Jessica said...

Hi Alison--I'm intrigued by your comment about the nuclear family being isolating for the mother, etc. We must discuss sometime!
Fierce family love, your cousin

Alison said...

Thank you, Laurie Menard. I'll look those blogs up. Jessie, I'd love to talk with you about the nuclear family sometime! Anytime, fiercely beloved cousin...