Six years ago, on Halloween night, I felt normal. I was working a couple of jobs at that point, one as an executive assistant and another as an SAT tutor in the evenings and on weekends. The kids were young and enrolled in school and a day care that I couldn't afford. And my husband at the time had just that day started substitute teaching and had a long term sub assignment. That day, we had come home from work and school and gotten the kids ready and had gone out trick or treating as a family. As we walked around the neighborhood with the cheap plastic pails that would eventually totally break on the sidewalk under the weight of the candy, I felt exhilarated. It was the first time both of us had ever been employed at the same time. I felt like a real family, a responsible little unit, ready to take on the world together. That night made an impression on me (obviously since I still remember it so well). The normalcy was something I had craved, even when I didn't know that I was craving it, like the first warm strawberry of the season, eaten hastily in the field from dirty fingers.
It didn't last. Within a month and a half, right in time for the holidays, actually, then-husband had quit the job and had 50 excuses, all of which I accepted, for why he preferred to stay in bed. Within three months, I would be having panic attacks in the shower, and despite my working 60-70 hours a week, spending at least one morning every pay period in a grimy check cashing place that smelled like roach spray and desperation. Normal was something we only were in photographs.
Last week, my now-fiance got a job (or rather, transferred to a new job within his same company) close to where I live. Like commuting distance. All of a sudden, things that we had talked about as "in the future" are things that we can do. We can talk about houses in concrete terms; we can finish the pre-approval process for said house. We can make plans and sit up at night and talk about them over cheap wine and then get up the next morning and make them happen. We both have jobs and commutes and business casual and geeky things to talk about when we get home, things that make the other one smile and say "That's nice, dear." We help each other, and we respect each other, and at the end of the day, I know someone has my back. And that if I do end up buying new brakes for my car, I don't have to go to a check-cashing place or lose one wink of sleep about it.
We are normal.
95% of me loves it. Maybe more like 97%. Stability is underrated, folks, as is uninterrupted sleep and real estate aspirations. The other 3-5% is caught up in a mix of "This too good to be true-edness can't possibly last forever" and "What if I get itchy?" I have spent so much of my life trying to convince myself that I didn't need this, that I didn't need the house, the car, the steaming cup of coffee made by someone who loves me, even at 6:00 in the morning. What if I don't, in fact, need it? What if I find myself singing Freebird off the back porch of the house, drinking Grey Goose from the bottle in my bathrobe? What if I wake up as some pitiful John Updike character, miserable and hateful in my own wretched way? Despite my heels and my cardigans and my responsible adult car, I have the same flair for the dramatic as I did as a scowling, goth-y 13 year old in black lipstick and Doc Martens. I find myself scared of what may indeed by laying dormant inside of me, some inner demon singing Rage Against the Machine and biding her time.
Yesterday afternoon, I was in the kitchen making lasagna. Just poking around happily, futzing around, making salad dressing and mashing garlic into a paste to smear exorbitantly on a loaf of ciabatta. E asked me if he could vacuum and I laughed, wondering what woman has ever answered "NO!" to that question. So he is vacuuming the house, and Alice is laying on the couch watching Netflix on her iPod and Sam is watching YouTube videos about electricity and Gabby is sprawled on a bean bag in her room in the way that only a 14 year old girl can. Normal Sunday night stuff, probably replicated in 17 houses up and down the block of our WASP-y neighborhood. My mom, chased from the interstate by a freak snowstorm, walks in and looks around at us. "I never thought I'd see it," she says. "But this is nice." And it was. It was so, so nice, like a warm sweater and a puppy and an especially warm piece of pie all wrapped up into one.
Everyday is a lesson in that normal doesn't have to be a straight jacket. In that "extraordinary" lies in the way my toddler's hair curls around her ears of its own accord, the way that he makes late 90's SNL references while he makes my lunch, the giggling fits that Gabby takes that force her to writhe in the floor. My peeps--they are extraordinary, and although it takes work, I remind myself that I deserve this. That we all do. I am so getting there.
At some point, I am going to write something totally fluffy and esoteric about mascara and ponte dresses, I promise. Maybe a blow job or two as well. My oeuvre. Today is not that day, but tomorrow might be.