This morning I woke up with two cats and two boys jumping on my bed.
Only one cat and one boy are technically mine, but the others are my family, they all belong to my heart. Jakey is Max’s best friend. I like to tell people that on the weekends, I have other either two children or none. Max and Jake live together from Saturday am until Sunday pm, sleeping at one or the others houses almost every weekend. Separating them is painful and only done when necessary. It is the kind of friendship that I shared with Erica, the warm, wonderful and comfortable feeling of having not one home but two, of being able to walk in the back door without knocking, of knowing that there, always and anytime you are welcomed and loved, wanted and yes, even needed. That home is a place that is so much wider than a house. That you belong to something greater.
Toby, the orange cat is our neighbor’s pet. But when Rosie was recovering from cancer 3 years ago, she adopted him. He was a kitten and she was a cat exploring her maternal side. She used to carry him by his neck through the cat door. Now Toby wanders in and out of our home as though he belongs here. It is his home. He belongs to us. Just like our house belongs to Jake.
And just like Max and I belong to Jackie and Eric. We open the door to their yellow bungalow and announce our arrival with a shout. Often it is acknowledged but sometimes it is not. No matter, I let myself in and start to cook dinner or settle in to knit. Children run through and I kiss their boo-boos while I chop garlic and pour myself wine.
This morning I brought Jake back home and sat with Jackie having a cup of coffee. My dear friends Stephen and Marilyn come by to see Jackie’s almost complete remodel and seek her wisdom with their own kitchen project. While Marilyn and Jackie pour over photos and samples, I pour Stephen coffee while we huddle about work and talk about coming by to see his brother and nephew who will arrive for Thanksgiving on Tuesday. Max climbs in and out of his lap.
I glance at the clock and excuse myself, leaving Max upstairs to play with Jake, Jackie and Marilyn with the catalogues, Stephen with the coffee cup. I have a guitar lesson and need to clear a place in the war zone I call my living room for Jeff and I to sit. Its been weeks since my last guitar lesson and I need the help. Its been weeks since I’ve seen my friend Jeff and I need to hear him tell me a story, I need to hear him sing.
I leave the door open for Jeff who comes in and settles on the couch, Toby stretched out between us. Jeff and I wrestle with the hard parts as I stretch my fingers and try and make my guitar sing. We switch for a minute and he plays my little girl while I try his beautiful baby, a guitar with a sound as big as Texas. I laugh and switch back, the chords are no easier on a better guitar. Its me, not her and I just need to practice. He writes out my homework and I promise that I will play every day–that I will work hard. I am solemn in my promise.
We are rapping up our lesson as our housemate comes home from church. “Please Jeff,” I ask him, “Play for her. She has never heard you play”. She and I sit at the dining room table while he plays songs by the great Reverend Gary Davis in a way that makes you want to whisper Amen. I close my eyes and time stands still. “One more, please” I say like a little girl, “just one.” I would have sat there at the table asking for one more song for hours but the phone rings. It is Jackie.
Jeff and I head out.
We wander over and say hello to Eric who has been locked in the basement saudering things, melting metal and fixing pipes. We cross over to the park where the boys are climbing “Dirt Mountain”.
Max has been craving Jeff for weeks–He has been gone for the whole month for work and fun and Max feels it in his bones. He and Jakey climb all over him , play chase and tag with him, while Jackie and I collect leaves in the park. They are so brilliant this year–especially the red ones. I want to pick up red ones and press them in a book to remind me of this day with the sky so blue and the air so cool and brisk. Max sits in Jeff’s lap and snuggles his head on his chest. He is safe here–he belongs to Jeff as much as he belongs to me, this park, this tree he just climbed.
As the sun goes down I head home again, this time to pick up spinach and onions and potatoes and Gruyere. All the stuff for dinner and our housemate too. She cannot dine alone on a Sunday. We let ourselves into Jackie’s, wash spinach and cut potatoes . Jackie and Eric rearrange furniture while we cook for all nine of us, tripling the garlic in the recipe, doubling the butter.
Barbara, my other mother, arrives with Jackie’s girls. We pour wine and eat the leftover Gruyere. We talk about art and music and paint colors and wool while the gratin bubbles and bakes and the world feels right. Norah, the littlest one climbs into our housemate’s arms as though she knows that this mom, whose own children are sound asleep in a village in far away, is in need of a daughter’s love. At this moment, this woman belongs to Norah and her angel bell-like laugh.
This is my life as I love it. Community and friendship, connection and music, a shared life with boundaries so blurry that love can just seep through. Of belonging to one another with all the messiness and joy that this brings.
The rhythm of my life is doors opening without knocking, vegetables being chopped, coffee being poured and chores being shared. This is my life as I love it. This is the rhythm of my life.