It's done. My husband, Kevin, and I have told our landlord in Chicago that we won't be renewing our lease after three years. We're away from home, staying in my parents' condo building in Florida in a first-floor renter owned by the building. We've been in Florida for three weeks. Kev works from home and so do I, so we came down to spend some more time with my folks and prepare for my sister's wedding, happening here at the end of the month. And in some divine-cosmic intervention, the wistful daydreams that we'd batted around for years have somehow, in this floral-couched, wicker-tabled place, shoved their way into reality.
Ever since Kev and I met in New York in 2007, we'd shared stories and dreams of travel. We had been lucky enough to enjoy a honeymoon in Costa Rica and a babymoon in Paris. Wow—I thought I'd be set for the next eighteen years of baby-raisin' after a week in the city of lights, even though it was after my celiac diagnosis and there were no croissants for me. We had rented an apartment there, in the 7th arrondissement, above a narrow strip of art galleries and not five minutes from the Seine River.
Our first meal had been at Noglu, a tiny, entirely gluten-free bistro in the Passage des Panoramas that dazzled us with a spread of perfectly baked, poached, fried, fermented everything. By the third day, Kev was asking, "Why don't we live in Paris?" I was enthusiastic, but not really serious. We imagined spending months here, working in cobble-side cafes and perfecting the French "r" in words like la perle and l'orangerie.
But really, we couldn't do that without uprooting everything: we couldn't afford to travel for months and still keep an apartment. We were also about to have a baby. Well, we rationed, we'll wait till he's a year old. It sounded like we were in the final throes of a youth unencumbered by diaper bags and car seats, bargaining for more time, unwilling to shelf the possibilities.
Well, that first year is over, our son is sixteen months old, walking and echoing as many of our words as he can, except sounds like the "f" in "cogee" and the "sw" in "ding". And we find ourselves in Florida, returning to these same ideas. There's something in the absence of your own dishes and dirty laundry that psychologically removes you just far enough from reality to make wild things seem possible. Buffered by the ever-present shushing of the Gulf of Mexico waves, we returned to and entertained the same idea of traveling—seriously this time. With my typically anxiety-prone mind eased into a complacence not to be found in Chicago, I found myself agreeing to things: Pack up the apt? Put everything in storage? Sure! Take the baby overseas for months? Why not?! Everything seems possible on vacation. But we aren't talking about vacation, we're talking about our lives.
I'm holding a glass with the other half of the Crispin natural hard apple cider that Kev has split between us. Perched on a stool at the kitchen counter in the rented unit in Florida, I'm hovering near the laptop, its singular dim glow one of the few remaining lights on. The baby is asleep—at last—and we've crafted an e-mail to our landlord. Today is the deadline for renewing our lease. If we don't renew, we'll have two months (two months?!) to settle, store, schedule everything before hitting the road.
Am I nervous? Yes! When you've been away from home a little while, you reach a turning point when you start to look forward to returning to your bed, your couch, your comfortable nest, the place that is yours. I'm nervous about not having that, of being suddenly nomadic. When my sister asks about this later, I'll reply that that feeling is just an attachment to things, right? But I realize it's more: It's what they represent. Kev and I had worked hard to build savings, to eliminate our credit card debt (besides our stubborn student loans), to earn a comfort and security in which to raise a family . . . and now we have a family. After years of shuttling from apt to apt from college to adulthood, I had been thrilled to be somewhere for two years together, let alone three. And I had a detoxed kitchen. Entirely gluten free. I could pick up any spice, appliance, or spatula and use it, no questions, no labels, no heavy lifting. The kitchen was mine; it was safe.
Sara Bareilles is crooning "Many the Miles" and Kev leans in, "You could click send."
I don't know if I answer. I know I start giggling and whenever I'm taken by a fit of laughter, my eyes start tearing, but that happens quickly this time.
"We could hit it together," He says.
Through wet windshield eyes, I giggle an "okay" . . . your message has been sent. I wipe my eyes, realize I'm shaking, but I smile and raise my glass. Kev raises his: "To traveling with family and living the dream."
This feels like a memory, like two other times I remember: Once when laying my hand on the wrought iron gate leading to my first post-college apartment in Astoria; And the second, meeting Kevin's parents and twin sister for the first time.
Circa Waves "T-shirt Weather" starts to play. Here we are. It's 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night, the baby's asleep, and we have two months to plan where we'll stay after that. But first, we have a wedding to attend.