Two weeks ago, we celebrated your fourth year on this planet with a party at the local park and a chocolate ice cream cake. A few of your friends from preschool made it, as did a few of our friends, and together we celebrated what superficially appeared to be a very run-of-the-mill birthday. In reality, our whole world was in upheaval.
You see, it all started a few months ago when your father and I decided that the little life we’d made for our family in Sonoma County wasn’t working for us anymore. Your father found a great–but stressful–job in San Francisco, and was commuting an average of four hours a day roundtrip to get to and from his office. The stress of his commute was wearing on all of us, but if that wasn’t enough, I also decided that I was ready to venture out from my consulting work and try my hand at full-time employment again. In an office. Also in San Francisco.
I was offered a job at a wonderful new organization focused on children and families, as well as climate change, and I accepted. This decision pretty much cemented our decision to move closer to the city. So we found a rental house in Marin County, made all of the necessary arrangements, and planned our move. And it was in the midst of all this relocation planning that I also set about planning your birthday.
“Mami, will there be cake at my party?” you asked.
“Of course!” I confirmed.
“Most definitely, though we won’t ask for presents from the people who come to your party, right?”
“Right,” you asserted, though a little reluctantly.
So we had the party and it was a success (even though I arrived with you and your brother fifteen minutes late to the park, and scrambled to set up the food and table decorations and balloons while annoyed parents and children watched), and you got presents and cake, and we said our goodbyes to friends. Then a few days later we made the move to our new house.
And it was a disaster.
Our POD got dropped off on the driveway of the rental house, we opened the front door, and nearly fell over.
Nothing had been made ready for us: rooms left unpainted with streaks of questionable liquids on the walls, black mold on the windows, a bathroom with holes in the walls and missing faucets, and carpets either missing or stained with more questionable liquids. I was shocked, and your father got very quiet as he walked with me through the rooms to survey the damage.
We tried to make a go of it, but after a couple of hours of crying and frenzied scrubbing, we finally admitted defeat and turned back for home. Our real home, in Santa Rosa. You were confused but accepting of what had happened, and declared that the rental house wasn’t a “good house”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Later that night your father and I sat and talked for many hours, fueled by rage and disappointment and wine. And finally, after a while, we realized we were relieved. This little home we’ve made for ourselves during the past three years isn’t anything fancy, but it’s the home we’ve built with you and your brother. And we realized that we love it, even though it’s far away from an exciting life in San Francisco and the jobs we’ve taken in that city.
It’s the home that we transformed from the ugly version we bought with a scraggly, weed-filled lawn, to a sweet, light-filled space with a gorgeous garden and fruit trees in the backyard. It’s the home where I labored in the bedroom with your brother, and where we’ve spent several Christmases packing and unpacking presents. It’s where you and your brother learned to walk, ride tricycles and build block castles. It’s not perfect, but it’s ours. That’s enough for us right now, and will keep us going through the long commutes.
And just like that, the changes that we’ve undergone had more to do with what we already knew in our hearts, but had to wait for our minds to accept. How lucky we are, tigerito.
So now you’re four years old, and we’ve added yet another tick mark to the door frame of your bedroom to show how much you’ve grown. Really, that mark will forever represent how much we’ve all grown, and serve as a reminder of the things that are truly important in life.
Con mucho amor para siempre,