This isn’t a love story.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m madly in love with Rich. He’s my best friend and husband. Well, best friend that I also sleep with. We all know there are levels of best friends. You know who you are, other best friends.
I still have no idea how I scored this guy. Cute. Sweet. Generous. Kind.
I always thought love at first sight was a stupid concept that happily-in-love people made up.
I never believed in soul mates or the ‘one.’
All convenient words created so Hallmark had something to paste on its cards.
So here I sit, seven years later, deeply in love and a believer in all things typed out on pink cards with pictures of birds sharing a worm or toddlers dressed as adults holding hands.
As a long-time single gal still breaking old habits, odd feelings still creep in. Like being a little pissed that when sweeping me off my feet, Rich also swept away my plans to become a crazy cat lady who dressed too young and lurked at concerts geared toward the college set. He also swept away my plan to never know the excruciating pain of stepping on a Lego. Or debates over bedtimes (kids) or a reasonable amount of covers for one person to have over another (Rich).
I suppose those bits of bitterness will continue drifting further away.
There is love in this story. But it is mainly a story of chaos and joy and tears related to finding it.
This is a story of throwing four people into a blender – but three of them are ice cream and syrup and Oreos and one of them is broccoli.
This is a story of fighting – both literally (oh we’ve have our battles) and figuratively (so many opportunities to throw in the towel…).
We still get caught up in the parenting learning curve. We still get caught up in the ‘but we do it this way’ defense. It used to be very combative – a very us versus the new lady roller coaster. Not so much anymore.
This is a story of hiding in the bathroom with the shower running so no one could hear my sobs. Or me standing outside another bathroom patiently waiting for someone else to take their turn.
This is a story of laughing so hard that we could (and can) share a look for days and get right back to uncontrollable belly rolls.
This is a story of storming out. And storming back in. And staying. Forever.
Rich and I didn’t start out dating. We started out having fun, no strings. We eventually realized we were dating and it was a bit petrifying. He carried with him all sorts of baggage – backpacks, suitcases, storage lockers, change purses. You name it, he owned it and it carried a story. I brought along (well, mainly perfection) years of going it alone and a scheduled, rigid outlook on how my life was supposed to look. But, really, what was the harm in dating?
Then Rich began to look at me differently. At the time, I didn’t really know why, but later, when I figured it out, I was both touched, honored and preparing my exit. He was searching my soul for signs of a mother. He knew that, should we make our relationship permanent, he’d be handing over two of his most precious and loved suitcases. I’d become a step-mom (okay) but most likely a mom-mom (wtf?). He told me this often. Half filled with urgency, half filled with warning.
And here’s how my brain worked: Panic? Why? I could totally be a mother! How hard was that? Clothing, food, school – check, check, check, I’d get it done! Mostly. My brain also lived heavily on the ‘probably won’t happen’ side. The might. Things might go whonky and Rich could end up with full custody. But it wasn’t in stone. So, really, put those suitcases in the back seat.
Certain things had to happen for me to end up in the motherhood club. The first being a total implosion by his ex-wife. As one who had had some implosions of her own, I wasn’t too worried. Anytime I’d imploded, I’d followed it up with a quick dust off and renewed determination to get it together. I had (and still do) a hard time imagining someone imploding into a completely avoidable abyss and then just setting up camp.
And even if that did happen, the kids could just slide in and ease into living with an essential stranger, right? They could just see me as their dad’s friend. My rose colored glasses showed all sorts of signs that pointed me away from the real possibility of instant motherhood.
And, again, I’d tell myself, it’d be okay – easy even. I had pets! Totally qualified! I could make spreadsheets! I knew how to use my tiny crock pot! I lived a scheduled, organized life – just like kids! Plus, really, what were the chances?
Oh, what a funny, funny person past-me was.
The implosion did happen.
The kids did go to school one day from their mom’s house and return the same day to Rich’s, forever.
This happened four months after I’d decided to throw caution to the wind and move to Virginia and in with him. Four months into figuring out how’d we’d live together, two tiny, wounded people arrived with their own suitcases. They were seven and ten.
Panic? Yes, please, table for four.
Today me, still funny – just like past me. Able to confidently list to the kids all the things I should have done better. Things we should have done differently. Many of the legendary stories in our house start with ‘remember when Jyl…’
As it turned out owning a house, car, dog and cat did not equate to a hidden ability to mother. Spreadsheets for chores were not met with the glee that was put into creating them. Cooking for one did not translate into cooking for four (oh sure, they’ll love asparagus!). My bedtime was earlier than the kids, which made for awkward tuck ins when I insisted on being first.
This is a story of how I misjudged a smooth entrance to motherhood.
This is a story that jumps back and forth between where we started, where we are now and how we got there.
This is a story of how we are going to be bonded forever.
This is a love story.