My earliest memories of home are planted in a tiny one bedroom rental cottage, with a stream and limitless woods to explore in our own backyard. My mom gave me the sole bedroom, which was filled to the brim with shelves of dolls and treasures. One window over my bed was cracked and I covered it with glittered stickers and often traced its sharp edges after I'd been tucked in for the night. It was that window that most twisted my heart with nostalgia when we did move years later.
My mother slept on a futon couch in the living room, which also housed a small wood burning fireplace and a deep closet that was 'off limits' to my curious little fingers. We had a storybook porch that we circled with flower beds, and my best friend was a literal stone's throw, her front door framed in view through that cracked bedroom window. Her family owned our house as well as their historic neighboring farmhouse, and seeing as my mom was on her own, and there were whole years where we didn't even have a car, I spent lots of time tagging along with those neighbors.
My friend was the youngest of three girls, her father was a social worker with a passion for photography and her mother worked part time in the local theater, but was largely a master homemaker, serving up gourmet meals and effortlessly accommodating my early vegetarian politics on the many nights that I was welcomed for dinner. With my own parents divorced, and without any siblings, I idolized her family and dreamed of a future where I would recreate this domestic bliss.
I spent most of my teens and early twenties fully invested in long term relationships that were about little more than my commitment to commitment. When I did finally fall in love and got married, I remember an initial feeling of terror that it would all implode. Every step that brought me closer to the family of my childhood envy, also left me more afraid that it was a life that I didn't have the tools to precipitate or sustain.
It wasn't until I had children of my own and started to cobble together some version of my elusive dream life, that I began to legitimately value having been raised by my single mother. I had the privilege of being included in all adventures, and my voice was heard on every major decision. It's a murky boundary between parent/ child/ friend that might be frowned upon by the experts, but gifted me with most of what's 'good' in who I am today. I have a deep bond and genuine friendship with my mom that I can't imagine being propagated through any other history, and it's sometimes confusing to grapple with the idea that my own kids won't have this same relationship with me.
With every year that passes, and as we check off our little family's annual traditions; camping at the reservoir, apple picking, the harvest festival, ski trips, planting seeds in our garden, there is a part of me that is amazed that this is actually my life. It's incredibly good. It's too good. Of course it also takes a lot of work and sacrifice; the marriage, the jobs, the kids, the house behind the picket fence, it isn't this recipe that magically creates a family, a revelation to me but likely no surprise to anyone who grew up immersed in these ingredients. I do have my perfect family, but I also had perfection inside that rented cottage with my mother, seated in front of the fire on a feather pillow while she combed the tangles out of my wet hair. There are no smiling pictures of that family tradition, and yet it's tucked within me eternally. And so I make this my life because it's what I want, and not because I'm afraid of the alternative. That distinction matters to me, it gives me the freedom to maintain my own history and identity while I navigate inside a reality far different than what I've always known. The glass in the window is cracked, and that's what makes it mine.