Once upon a time, when Pete and I got married, we rented a house that was our dream house. It was a little renovated barn with two bedrooms, a clean, new kitchen, and a little living room/dining room area, nestled into a little nook of a Northern Virginia farm. We applied to rent the place, along with five or six other people, and we looked at it, trying hard not to like it too much, since we already had something lined up anyway, and one of the other people would probably be chosen before we were. When the tour ended, the owner smiled at us as she told us that the last person had dropped out of the running that day. The little cottage on Stonemeadow Lane would be ours for the next year and a half.
That moment has been replaying in my head over the last week or so, after closing on the first house we’ve ever owned. We had waited and waited and waited for another house that we loved here in Charleston, but months and months passed, and we still had got nowhere on it. The City was involved with the ownership and sale of the place, and the realtor was working for the bank that had foreclosed on it, and the contractor had done no work at all on the repairs the house needed to be habitable.
The day our contract ended on that house, we looked at another little house in our neighborhood that had just come on the market. The house had everything we’d had at the rental we’d been living in for the last four years, but it had huge windows and dark floors instead of orange, a laundry room that wasn’t in the garage, a screened-in porch and a whitewashed brick “sunroom” that all came out to something that felt every bit as right as that first little cottage we chose before we got married in 2005.
Less than four weeks and a major surgery later, we walked out of the closing and inaugurated my new studio with an incredible shoot, and then we were moving into a home that I loved more every minute I spent in it.
A lot of the dreams we’ve dreamed over the years are going into this house that is ours now, dreams about reading to our children at mealtimes, about having a kitchen with more counter space, about having light to fill the rooms and places to make photos without shooting around the things we hate. The kids have a playroom, I have a play room, and there is room here for the large farm table I want to have for us for school and work and making cookies and having friends for dinner. We are simplifying – it took us four days to move all the clutter we had stashed in the closets, and we were overwhelmed and embarrassed at the amount of stuff we had that we don’t use.
I didn’t want to move after having a baby again. We did it after Pip was born, and after Squiggy was born, and now we have done it after Noley was born (and I have blessed that little girl for being born two weeks early so many times in the last week, because she is not as little as she would have been if she had waited until she was full term to come to us). I was afraid I would have to shut down and run away and forget all the change and mourn all my own plans for this postpartum period gone awry, but I have stayed in the moment, and some have been hard, but a lot have been really, really good, and I haven’t missed my life this time.
I learned something in the middle of Noley’s labor. I had spent months preparing for her birth, and I wanted things to be just so after she was born, but in the middle of her labor, just before I moved out of early labor, I realized that this is life, the coming early, the things left undone, the fear and the unknown and the things that don’t go as you get right. You don’t get to choose the way it all plays out. You just get to live it or not live it, and you’ll never really be able to manage your way into the perfect experiences you imagine. That’s part of growing up, I suppose, realizing this, and it’s part of being alive, not shutting all the things out because they are outside of your control.
There are more dreams-come-true in the unexpected than in the five-year plan, I think. If you keep your eyes and your heart open, you’ll see.