Who would have thought that at 50 years old I would have moved in with my boyfriend, but there I was, trying to claim my own little corner of the house he had purchased with his first wife in 1984. I eventually obtained permission to take over the sunroom which doubled as a playroom for his daughters when they were children. The large windows open to parts of the Inyo National Forest, including a hillside with Jeffrey pine, white pine, lodgepole and mountain hemlock conifers. But it took me a while to gather the courage to ask for my own space in his house.
I was hesitant to ask. Mementos from his life representing his history were everywhere. Nooks and crannies and windowsills and bookshelves held the memories of his life before me. He had been collecting things for decades. Dead, beautiful moths and creepy dried up beetles were on top of shells gathered from his past. The skeleton head of a pelican was on a bookshelf as were various rocks in all shapes and sizes. And nothing had been dusted for years.
The bedrooms on the lower floor belonged to his three girls and were virtually untouched from when they left in 1997 to live with their mother in the Bay Area. Four little ceramic bears lined the windowsill of his girls’ bathroom and it was only a few months after we had been dating that he took down a pink measuring stick attached to a wall in the bathroom, showing how much his girls had grown in between their visits with dad. The house is a tribute to his past. As a new live-in lover and the only other woman to live in his house other than his first wife and daughters, I wanted to honor that past as best I could by not moving things around too much or making some things disappear altogether. At least not at first.
I fell in love with a man who I can honestly say, is the soul-match I knew was out there somewhere. As it turns out, he was right under my nose for over a decade. One night at a party back in the spring of 2008, we both discovered that we enjoyed soaking in one of the many hot tubs dotting the landscape around the Long Valley Caldera. On June 23, 2008 we went to Hilltop hot tub. We went again the next night and the night after that. During our third night together at the tubs, I finally said to him, “Are you going to kiss me or what?”
A year after we first saw each other’s naked bodies while the moonlight cast a white haze over the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I moved in. It had been about 12 years for each of us since we had last lived with another person and it would be safe to say that we were both nervous. We knew we got along. We gave each other space. We love to cook together. We slept well together and we loved to challenge each other’s intellect with trivia by watching daily doses of “Cash Cab” and “Jeopardy.” We were and are a perfect match.
When moving in with him was a done deal and I had three weeks to pack up my one-bedroom apartment, I started bringing things over to his house. My first kitchen accouterments to invade his cupboards was the omelet pan. Then came the waffle iron, a few dresses and some of my shoes. Little by little we tested the co-habitation waters and it went as smooth as a mountain lake on a windless, high altitude morning.
About a week or so after moving in with him, I took a few of my photographs and put them on shelves in the living room. I arranged his menagerie of paperback novels so the ones he read already were in a box to be donated to the local thrift store. Rearranging his books made room for the collection of my hard covers like the Diana Gabaldon “Outlander” series, “Girls Like Us” which is about Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Carole King, books on trivia, my dictionary collection, and various “Harry Potter” hard covers.
After a month I began to yearn for my ‘stuff’ that was still packed away. I wanted to be surrounded by photos of my friends and family. I wanted to find the plastic figurine of Felix the Cat and prominently display him next to my box of OSHO Zen Tarot cards. I wanted to un-box my eclectic collection of books and put them on the four-shelved oak bookcase I bought when I lived in Santa Clarita. I especially wanted the pictures of my boys on the wall as a reminder of how far we’ve come when in the not too distant past I was just a single mom trying to raise two challenging boys on my own.
In other words, I really need my own space. Not the “space” we refer to when we need a break from someone, but a ‘space’ for me and my “stuff.” A place where I could relax with my laptop and type away while a photo of me with my longtime girlfriends taken at a restaurant in the San Fernando Valley would be displayed prominently next to my nesting dolls.
The sunroom was the place. The windows are south facing and the plants which inhabited the planters on both sides of the room have greenery, but the ones on the west side of the sunroom were dying.
“What a great place for a window seat and all my stuff,” I said to myself one day. The boyfriend had been ever so generous about telling me that “his house was my house.” But still, it was his house and I wasn’t the type of girlfriend who moves in and does a complete makeover.
About six months after I had moved in, I asked if I could convert the sunroom into “my room.” He wholeheartedly agreed and that was that. Another month went by and I mentioned it again. Again, he wholeheartedly agreed. This went on for about three months.
I felt funny about asking him and figured that if he “wholeheartedly agreed,” he would make the first move and start taking out plants. That didn’t happen so one day he had some friends over and as they were sitting out on the deck enjoying the early morning sun while they fixed fishing lines and sipped coffee, I started in on the sunroom. It didn’t take long for my boyfriend to start helping me and by the end of the day, the plants were gone and there was a little window seat in place, just hankering to be surrounded by all my “stuff.”
For months I had pictured myself writing in the sunroom while sitting on my new window seat and it finally happened. One day my stories will be published in a national magazine. I will put a framed copy of the article next to all my “stuff” in the sunroom, in the house of my boyfriend, who became my husband, in September of 2010, and who eventually let me turn one of the extra bedrooms into a real writers office, complete with my stuff everywhere. I still sit in the sunroom to meditate, read, and be grateful that there was a perfect soul out there to go along with my imperfect self.