This post is the next in a series of posts I have dubbed “The Firehouse Chronicles.” See all episodes.
And now a leap ahead in time…
In setting a date for a party, we impose upon ourselves a much-needed deadline, but somehow the project scope creeps to higher and higher levels. The stables floor goes from needing a couple of temporary sheets of plywood, to becoming fully radiant heated and tiled. A simple bathroom gets a steam bath, two shower heads and is tiled in marble, the hayloft floor goes from being a simple project to one involving a trip to Port Townsend for reclaimed wood, a full sanding with rented machine and four gradations of sandpaper and then four coats of polyurethane. The days before the party, the paint sprayer is set up and while I tape everything off, Jim sprays the entire interior of the house. We are exhausted and Jim becomes prone to bouts of irritability.
During this time, I take Carter to see colleges and he makes his decision, goes to prom and graduates high school, while Olivia graduates from college, suffers heartbreak and returns home. It becomes clear that the empty nest is not to be, at least for now as Olivia makes plans to move to the firehouse with us, and this shifts the dynamic of the move for me and Jim. I walk a thin tightrope between wanting to provide a safe haven for my kids while they are still in school and assuring Jim that they won’t be still living with us when they are 40. While he’s happy for them to live with us, he worries that the same dynamic between me and the kids that makes him feel like a guest at my house will be replicated at the firehouse.
Our conversations go in circles. He would like me to create an “if this, then that,” decision tree, spelling out all of the possible scenarios and our reaction to them, but I am incapable of making decisions based on things that haven’t happened yet. And yet I see his point, and realize I need do a better job of setting expectations with the kids. I try to make it clear to them that they are always welcome, that they will always have a safe haven if they need it or while they are in school, but that the expectation is for them to find jobs and places of their own. Jim worries that we are making the nest too comfortable and that it is being built to their specifications rather than ours.
The days before the party are a little tense between us and he heads off on a shift, to return the morning of the party, so I spend long 12 hour days cleaning and getting things ready.
The morning of the party, we decide on a breakfast date, so I make my way to the firehouse to meet up with him. We start discussing what needs to get done before people arrive and as we’re talking, he throws the ball for Chloe. She sprints after it and then returns to drop it at my feet, so I kick it back to Jim to throw again. Instead he picks the ball up and starts pulling at a strap that seems to be attached to it. I assume he’s gotten Chloe some new fangled Chuck It ball that has a tug strap attached. He detaches the strap from the ball and begins to untie a knot at the end of it. I’m thinking that it’s kind of a cool invention, to make a ball with a detachable tug strap, until he holds out a delicate ring with a sparkly diamond on it. It takes me a second, as I am still thinking about the cool Chuck It ball. He’s laughing at me as he asks me to marry him. I weep as I say yes.
The kids meet us at our favorite breakfast spot, have been waiting for the call, have been in on the plan. They have all done a great job of keeping the secret. I was completely unaware.
Jim is still hanging a light fixture when people start arriving at the party, which started out as a birthday/graduation/1 yr house anniversary party and ended up an engagement party.
And now I’ve almost caught up with real time. Next up is the kitchen remodel, but I’ll leave that for next time.
Julyne, my biggest fan, has been begging for a video of the house, so here you go: