My BFF and I are making great progress on our commune.
I have secured my own house in her backyard.
10-year-old me is like, "FUCK YEAH!!"
38-year-old me is like, "Hey, remember this time last year when you bought a real house?"
10-year-old me is like, "IT HAS TWO WHOLE ROOMS THAT ARE MINE!"
38-year-old me is like, "It's 500 square feet."
10-year-old me is like, "That couch turns into a bed like a goddamn transformer!"
38-year-old me is like, "That's a love seat and not even a real couch."
10-year-old me is like, "We can ride our bike to the beach!"
38-year-old me is like, "You don't even have a bike!"
It all depends on the hour, really.
The goal is to keep the kids in one house for at least a year, while we move in and out as we figure out the intricacies of consciously uncoupling, as Gwyneth would say. It's either the best idea ever or the worst, which is kind of my specialty.
As I went to look at the place, my friend Lyn made a joke to the prior tenant that the only thing wrong with it was the neighbors.
She was a little old lady who loved the unexpected visits and joyful noises of four little kids. She said so, with a delighted smile, and told me she would keep the door open for their visits.
"Oh no. Not me. I'm buying an electric fence to keep them out," I told Lyn.
"They'll tunnel right under it."
I reminded the kids that Ms. Ashley really likes her naps so we'll work out a system. I suggested office hours or a flag.
I went to babysit them the other night and my favorite wrapped both arms around my waist and looked up at me with sheer happiness in his big blue eyes, a constellation of freckles across his pale nose and cheeks and said, "I can't wait for you to live in our yard, Ashley." And when I was done laughing at how hobo-like that sounded, my heart swooned in my empty-feeling chest.
Whose neighbor loves them like that?
I have a new favorite of her four hourly, by the way, always for a new reason. He's actually one of our reasons for being though. I held him after a swim event while she changed her older daughter into dry clothes. He was a chubby, happy baby with pale smooth skin and red curls and without thinking about it at all, I kissed him on his sweet little cheek and then recoiled in awkward horror about how many women would go absolutely berserk (understandably so) about some weird stranger smooching their baby. I apologized profusely and she was like, "Nah, it's fine. Who wouldn't kiss him?" And I knew she was my people.
They were so excited when I came to babysit because it meant I'd let them into the now vacant guesthouse. My mom bought me a beautiful bed with gorgeous girly linens and a pretty antique dresser and I was eager to put it all together and gaze upon its perfection.
Her just-turned-5-year-old twin girl, short cropped curls and wide brown eyes, looked at me and said, "Ms. Ashley, we're gonna make your house so beautiful! I'm gonna help you! My mama can make a bed so good and I'm gonna do it just like that, me and you, we're gonna make this bed. There's this thing where you can tuck the blanket under the pillows...my mama does it, I'll do it for you." She said this with big eyes and eager emphasis and I thought, "Yeah, we're gonna make this so beautiful."
I told her we needed a fire pit and she exclaimed with delight. "My mama's always wanted one! And me too!"
I told her to take her shoes off and she told me she hadn't worn any and I inspected her dirty feet and my clean carpet and she told me she hadn't walked through very much dirt at all, which seemed pretty reasonable. So we went in and smoothed my crisp white linens onto my very soft bed, and she jumped right up there to tuck that blanket under those pillows, feet first.
When I said, "Remember about your feet?" she said, "Remember how they're not that dirty though?"
And I did.
And they weren't. Well, they were, but left no evidence.
We spent some time thinking about where to hang a shelf before she agreed it just might not work in this space, and I could hang it in the closet for my bags if I'd like, that's what she would do.
I reminded everyone again that Ms. Ashley loves naps, and we will work out a really good system for visits.
"The new fun game is 'let's pretend I'm going to Ashley's house'" was the text I received a few days later.
And on my next visit, there were tiny Mary Janes on my door step, a marking of territory of sorts, or maybe a promise to have access to shoes next time, and my heart did that sweet thing again and I felt like maybe this could be home for both my 10-year-old self and my 38-year-old self and whoever would comes next. (I'm guessing my 39-year-old self but don't quote me on that because I don't know shit.)
Also, we're getting walkie talkies.
That's really the best idea we've come up with yet but I'm sure there will be many.