A home office, a baby, a life

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Who knew a room could launch you into adulthood?

I spend a strange amount of time not feeling “old enough.” Not old enough to have a house, a car, credit cards, a checkbook. Not being old enough to have a husband and a baby on the way; not old enough to argue with cable companies and insurance representatives, to be grocery shopping independently and gathering tax documents.

Though I don’t obsess about it, I often feel like I’m glancing over my shoulder — waiting for someone else to swoop in and take care of things. Fix the insurance snafus; adjust the thermostat. Be the adult in the room.

It’s scary to realize you’re the adult present. The one throwing the party, taking the phone calls, signing up for health care. It’s all you.

We have a home office. One with built-in cabinetry, outlets for computers, actual computers, a mug with pens and Sharpies. And pencils? I guess you need those sometimes.

It was the first thing we noticed in the real estate listing discovered around this time last year: a beautiful space with counters and drawers and ridiculous organizational possibilities. Coming from a relatively small apartment, all I could think about was cramming our stuff in those nooks and crannies. There were so many of them! Something out of a dream. As soon as we stepped inside and looked left, taking in this gorgeous room, we were sold. I mean, the rest of the house is great . . . but that office.

It’s been almost a year since we first toured the place that would become our family home. I had “that sense” as soon as we walked in, you know? That feeling of peace, tranquility, overwhelming rightness. We’d already visited half a dozen houses with my dad, a Realtor, and found positive qualities in each . . . but this one? This was it. It had everything. Never a doubt in our minds.

I freaked out a few times, of course — mostly about money. Houses require lots of it. We got into a bidding war right before the bank formally accepted our offer on the foreclosure, so there was a time when I thought we might have lost it. That thought brought on a potent mix of overwhelming disappointment . . . and relief. I was panicky thinking of another move so quickly after our wedding and my initial transition from my parents’ house. Putting our life back into boxes — ones I felt I’d just unpacked — was overwhelming.

But it was worth it, of course. We got the house; we moved all of our worldly possessions; we’ve made this place ours. We’re home now. I won’t pretend like there aren’t still piles of stuff in the basement waiting to be organized, placed and hung . . . but no one goes down there anyway, right? Spence has learned to ignore them. For now.

With a snowstorm blowing through the Washington area on Monday night, I was able to take a laptop home and work from our office on Tuesday — for the first time ever. And it was magical. “Working from home” is a mystical concept I’ve heard others experience, but I’ve never been able to attempt such a feat.

Given I’m six months pregnant and unsteady on my feet on a good day, my boss kindly suggested I hook up with our IT expert and figure out a way to make it happen. I was ridiculously grateful. By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I was hunkered down in said home office with two laptops fired up, listening to Coldplay and sipping a contraband Coke while typing away.

Outside, my husband — off for an actual snow day — set to work clearing our driveway of the 8 inches of fluffy stuff that came down overnight. Our neighbor drove his tractor up and down his property, making hasty U-turns at the street. Around lunchtime, a plow finally pushed its way through our neighborhood. Salt coated the street. The sun broke through the windows.

And I felt happy.

Like really, really happy. Suddenly, inexplicably, buoyantly happy. I’m emotional in a normal (non-pregnancy) state, but something about this scene — cozy but productive at home, our home — just felt . . . really good. Adult-like. Answering work emails, researching articles, laying out pages, being part of a team . . . well, I felt like a grown-up. Never mind that I’ve been in the working world — and at my job — for nearly eight years. This? This was it.

Do you ever have a “This is my life” moment? Tiny, sparkly shards of realization that you are, in fact, this or here or something in between?

For me, they’re usually sparks of recognition that I’m married, starting a family, turning 30 this summer . . . that somehow — by the grace of God, perhaps — we have a home to call our own and people we love who love us back. And more than anything, Spence and I have each other.

There are times I wake up and feel like I’m 10 or 12 or 25 again. Sometimes I expect to open my eyes and be back in my childhood canopy bed, Dad downstairs popping Eggo Waffles into the toaster while my sister and I scramble to get ready for school. Sometimes these scenes feel so familiar, so real, that I forget. Forget I’m here. Forget it’s now.

Feeling a baby kick and tumble in my belly produces some of these existential wanderings, sure, but I’ve always been a philosophical mess. Questioning everything, adding weight to every moment. I was a weird kid. Once, at Disney World, I remember crying because my mom gave me a piece of gum — and I threw away its paper wrapper. Someday, I thought, I’ll remember her handing me this wrapper — something she held. Someday, I’ll want it back.

See? Weird.

I’m not worried about becoming a mother. I don’t worry about being bad at it — though I’m sure I’ll screw up and ask forgiveness and wish I’d done things differently. I’m not a perfect person, and I won’t be a perfect parent. But I already love our son with a fierce fire I didn’t think was possible, and I know I’ll do my best. I’ll do more than that.

Sometimes I think about what it means to bring a child into this world. Like everyone, I think of the scary things — illness, violence, heartbreak — and worry about how I’ll make myself a human shield, absorbing his blows and soothing his cries. Knowing I won’t be able to fix everything — or, someday, anything — is already a gnawing ache.

But I can’t go there. I know I can’t. So I focus on how we want to raise him — how we want to encourage him, laugh with him, inspire him. I keep thinking of my own happy childhood, wanting Spence and I to give him everything we had: love, support, attention.

I keep picturing him in this home office in a Pack ‘n Play, baby-babbling while I tap out emails and field phone calls — how different our life will look four, six and twelve months from now. So foreign from how it looked when we first cleared snow from our shoes and walked through the front door last March.

But also right, too. Very right. Good.


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