Cozy & Close

I was just starting to give in to the urge to pass out on the couch when the dance began.

She started with the back leg shuffle. When that didn’t rouse me quickly enough she moved to the full body shimmy. By the time she launched into her “Watch me knock over the mail table with my taaaaail!” grand finale, I was reluctantly heading for my shoes.

Once the mail table goes clattering to the ground, I know I don’t have any time to waste- Marty needs to go, and it has to be NOW. So I had to deal with the fact that I was about to walk through my neighborhood wearing red sweatpants, an old blue t-shirt, polka-dot rain boots, and….wait for it….no bra.

So there I was, being dragged into the street so Marty the Menace could channel her puppy energy, and I found myself thinking 2 things: 1. I hope to God that every one of my neighbors is asleep, and 2. If she sprints any faster I may accidentally whip myself in the face with one of my unruly, post-children C-cups.

And then I found myself thinking something else. This was kind of…nice. The air was crisp and cold, Christmas lights were still twinkling on a few houses, and it felt like Marty and I had the whole world to ourselves.

So of course I used this opportunity for quiet to…overthink.

As we strolled past house after house I marveled at the diversity on my street. There were the few small, lovingly maintained homes towards the bottom; then there was the moldy foreclosure that a very enthusiastic contractor recently decided to give a second chance at life (but I swear I can still smell it from across the street). A little further up were the two that I always assumed were abandoned (I was wrong). Then a few more, slightly larger, “two cars in the driveway and a white fence” suburban homes…and of course the house on the corner that saw its owners disappear late one night and never return. Maybe foreclosure guy will tackle that one next…

And then Marty turned and began trotting around the corner to what Vince always calls his “most favorite part” of Marty’s daytime walks. The cul-de-sac with the “huge houses.”

It’s such a strange sight, really- 5 houses, all tucked away on their own little side street, all unique and gorgeous and beautifully-landscaped. All meticulously maintained.

All silent.

I always find myself studying these marvels of architecture as we pass them, admiring the split-rail fences, the neatly-arranged stones around each mailbox, the beautiful picture windows and long, curved driveways…

But I can never help but notice that those beautiful picture windows are always dark, the curtains drawn across them. And those long, curved driveways are, more often than not, completely empty (and with the way I looked at that moment, I was endlessly grateful for that).

These 5 beautiful houses with a street all to themselves are certainly a sight to see- but they don’t really seem like….homes.

(Disclaimer for people with large homes, before I get any eggs thrown at my front door- I’ve been in houses both gumdrop-sized and gigantic that were delightful- but these 5…not so much.)

As I glanced from one set of darkened windows to the next I remembered Vince’s awe the first time he set his eyes on them.

“Wow! These houses are huge! I really wish we could have bought one of these instead. Our house is nice but it’s so much smaller- these are so big and fancy!”

“These are amazing, but I kind of wanted a small house.”

“Why??”

“When I was a kid we lived in a small house- 6 people and one bathroom. We had to schedule our showers….and when one person was cooking, suddenly the other 5 needed to be in the kitchen. We would all be squished in there like sardines, but we didn’t mind. Our house didn’t have a lot of room, but you were never lonely. The windows were always open, and you could hear laughter, or crazy conversations- or sometimes yelling- if you walked by. When Daddy and I moved into our first apartment I couldn’t sleep for weeks because I couldn’t hear my dad in the living room watching tv. That 1-bedroom apartment seemed huge! I didn’t like all the empty space; I was so used to the noise and the closeness. And that’s what I want for you and your sister- but with 2 bathrooms.”

“That sounds like our house now!” Vince exclaimed.

“Exactly. When we pulled up to our house I said ‘Oh my gosh it’s like a gingerbread cottage!’ I knew right away it was the one. I know these are beautiful- and believe me, I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to hand me the keys to one of them- but I’m a big fan of being cozy and close. You make so many nice memories that way.”

I kept replaying that conversation as Marty dragged me up the hill. I wasn’t sure if Vince would ever “get” it- why his mother wanted everyone banging into walls and bumping elbows.

I can’t help it. It’s what I’ve always known and grown to love- being cozy and close.

I love watching Vince and Pat chasing each other from the bedroom to the living room with the Nerf guns he got for Christmas, knocking into furniture and picture frames along the way.

I love that I can hear either of my kids crying without a baby monitor, and I can be in their bedrooms cuddling their bad dreams away as soon as they wake from them.

I love Sunday afternoons, when I cook and bake while doing a delicate dance around 2 kids sitting on the counters and 2 dogs lying at my feet in a 6×8 kitchen. (I’m proud to report I have never clunked anyone in the head with a pot, pan, or baking sheet! Yet!)

I love that I can hear Gracie giggling in her bedroom while I sip my morning coffee in the dining room.

I even love how, even though we have two bathrooms, I usually have one kid sitting on the toilet chatting with me while I shower.

Maybe it would be nice to have a little more elbow room…but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the biggest house on the block (well, maybe the gorgeous blue one with the fence – ok fine not even that one).

After Marty had done her fair share of prancing, sniffing and clumsily banging into shrubbery, we trotted down the hill and back home. Through the opened blinds I could see our warmly-lit Christmas tree, the quirky antique dining room ceiling lamp, a red-headed child staring at me-

Wait.

“Why are you awake?!” I whisper-yelled as I got to the door.

“It’s 10:15- I tucked you in a half hour ago!”

“I missed you.”

“I was only up the street, Vince.”

“I know, but I got lonely knowing you weren’t right in the next room. Now that you’re back I can fall asleep. Can you tuck me in so I’m warm and cozy, Mommy?”

A smile slowly spread across my frozen cheeks.

He gets it.

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