This afternoon, after the zoo, after lunch, after my therapy appointment, Doug and I picked up his sisters from school and went to his mom’s house for dinner. Not wanting to sit around on Doug’s mom’s couch after I’d just spent an hour sitting on my therapist’s, I immediately grabbed their dog – an adorable papillon mix named Kylie – and took her on a walk up and down the main road in their neighborhood.
I realized, as Kylie and I were walking along the busy street, how much being in this part of town reminds me of my and Doug’s history together. When we first started dating – even before then, when we were technically just friends – things weren’t comfortable for me in my own home, because my then-husband was there with all his possessiveness, passive-aggression, and drama. Things weren’t comfortable for me in the part of town I’d grown up in, because my then-husband and I had spent a year living with my parents before we got married, and so I had a lot of connotations tying my childhood home and haunts to my failing relationship.
But Doug’s childhood home and haunts: those were new to me. They were uncharted on my less-than-spotless personal history map. They were safe. Doug introduced me to his family, and they accepted me exactly as I was in that moment, because they had no expectations as to who I should be otherwise. He took me to local restaurants and Starbucks, and I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I should be seen in public with him, because no one in the area was going to recognize me and wonder where my husband was. He drove us around in his little sports car (later traded for the truck we have now), and he knew all the backstreets, and I could relax, let go of my plans and my need for control, and just trust him to navigate.
Being in that part of town always sort of takes me back to those feelings of, it doesn’t matter what other shit is going on in my life; I’m safe and hidden from it here.
I also realized today – though not for the first time – how much time has really passed since the start of my relationship. It helps that there are kids around to put it all into perspective. When I met Doug, his sisters were 11 and 9 – unarguably just children. Now, they are 15 and almost-13. The older one is wearing makeup. The younger one is taller than I am. They both have boobs.
And – and this is the best part – they like me. His whole family does. That initial, immediate acceptance of me as Doug’s girlfriend has deepened into an acceptance of me as part of their family. It shows up in their actions – when we picked the younger sister up from her after-school program today, she ran up and hugged me before even acknowledging her brother. It’s evident in the way I act in their home – today, I felt comfortable getting Kylie’s leash out of the drawer in the laundry room, and taking off down the street with her, without having to ask. It comes up in conversations – tonight, Doug’s mom even said it out loud: “She’s not a guest; she’s family.”
And we’re getting there on my side, too. In that letter my mom wrote me a few weeks ago, one thing she wrote about was how she’d recently been praying for me and Doug. (My parents are Catholic, spiritual and with strong faith, but never pushy-religious.) “My prayer was… for you and Doug to be successful in your careers – you with writing and Doug to discover his purpose for now, so that you can move on to marriage and also fertility to create God’s children,” she wrote. So after all these years of wondering whether my mom would ever get over the hurt from my sudden divorce and my brother’s numerous unexplained breakups, I finally feel like she’s accepted Doug into her family as well.
Being reminded of where we started forces me to acknowledge how far we’ve come. I can bitch and moan all I want about how I’m not even close to having a baby yet (and I plan to). But if I really think about it – or if I spend some time on a once-foreign-now-familiar street – I really can’t deny that so much progress has been made already.