A lot can be said for living with your landlord. My landlords care a lot about their property, but they also care a lot about me. That much is evident in the upstairs bathroom’s new herringbone tile, fresh baseboards, newly installed wall heater, and drafts that have been filled and sanded smoothed. The kitchen has a new sink, updated plumbing, garbage disposal, recessed lighting. The first-floor’s black ceiling has been painted white, transforming the space from man cave to coffeehouse. When we find some tall enough bar stools, we’ll have to start saving for an industrial espresso machine. Not that you gotta twist my arm about that.
So, Richie and I moved in together about three weeks ago. The Chalet is our home. But I’ve gotta tell you, it doesn’t feel like it. Not yet. I think that ceremony is more important than I gave it credit for. At the beginning of March, my housemates moved out, and three weeks later, I moved into a space still in flux to accommodate a tight deadline.
If there’s something I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last month, it’s that change is hard for me. When my space is out of my control, I get grumpy. Like, unreasonably grumpy. Richie and I have had to have a lot of conversations about my mood. (I fully acknowledge my luck in finding an emotionally literate partner). Through these discussions, we’ve discovered that my shitty attitude has everything to do with the fact that I don’t feel settled. Just this past week, we had a painter in the Chalet working on the ceiling after two full weeks of painting and door frame replacements.
It’s hard to feel settled my things are looking for their place. I am a creature of habit—I have more in common with hobbits than I do with elves or men. For me to be okay, my space needs to be okay. However, identifying these issues has made them easier to cope with. The bed and my desk, for instance, feel like they belong in this space. I make my bed most mornings, too. Last night, several of my roommates came upstairs for the first time since most of the stuff got moved in, and everyone validated my belief that the space looks nice. I can work with nice.
Routines help, too. Every morning, I get out of bed, do a skincare routine, followed by approximately 10 minutes of yoga, then I sit in front of my altar to meditate, then we take the dog for a walk (except for days when it rains, which throws the whole thing off-kilter). So, there are moments of normalcy, which is both good and bad.
Life with Richie is good because living with him is completely natural; it’s bad because the naturalness keeps the living together for the first time from feeling special. Like, we live together now, and it’s great; but why wouldn’t it be great? He’s great; I’m a work-in-progress. It makes sense. He makes my coffee; I make him do a skincare routine. We complement one another.
Still, I wish we had made a bigger fuss about living together and about being engaged. COVID sorta got in the way of a lot of things, didn’t it? I’m hopeful that throwing parties will be more of a thing soon. I miss the awkward small talk. Don’t you?
Living outside of the House is different, which means that I must be more conscious about how I engage with the community. For me, that means cooking food. Last night, we had a birthday party for a housemate who moved out at the beginning of the pandemic because of their occupation. We haven’t seen much of them since. Because we are all vaccinated, we felt ready to intermingle our households.
So, we did what we do best: party. I learned how to make a green curry with a doctored up canned curry paste (the secret is a metric ton of minced garlic, garlic ginger, and lemongrass paste). Michael went out for a dairy-free ice cream cake because how could any of our cakes compete with the birthday girl’s confectionary talents. We sang the birthday song, ate too much, we sat around talking way past our bedtimes. Later that night, I told Richie that I felt like we were returning to some kind of normal.
It’s hard to imagine that. Normal. Ceremonies are great at making things normal, the passing of time. A birthday party, another year gone. A graduation celebration, the harbinger of change.
In a year and a half, Richie and I will mark our relationship in the Bond House’s front yard. The yard isn’t much to look at right now. After the demolition of the garages, there is a lot of dirt and gravel. Some free fully-grown trees and bushes were found on Craigslist and, after a series of hilarious snack-related misadventures, were planted in the dirt. Despite it all, they look like they are adjusting well to the change. Every day when I look out over my balcony, I see the shrubs turn a little greener, and it makes me think everything unfolds in its own time.
So, the Chalet doesn’t feel like a home yet, but I think we’re just one party away from making it so.