The slack. Like in “taking up the . . . “ That used to mean, leaving my car with almost no gas because I was too tied to stop for a fill up and finding a full tank the next morning. Or having someone to wash dishes when I cooked, or taking a turn cooking. Or running the vacuum while I straightened up before guests arrived. Or picking up milk or the kid after school or the conversation that I let dangle. Or getting the coffee/tea started after the main course. The slack is what a partner does without really thinking. Not part of the grand division of labor or assigned chores or anything that you talk about.
God, I miss it.
I was thinking about the slack after I wrote that Julia changed the toilet paper roll yesterday. A tiny piece of slack, true, but one thing, just one thing that I did not have to do. But that one little thing brought to mind how I would like to have a roommate, a partner in crime, a partner. Period. I was not built to live alone.
I’ve always enjoyed house mates, if not room mates. In Boston, we lived in two communal houses, well, three but that third on,e which was really the first one, was dreadful. The kind of dreadful that included a St. Bernard that belonged to some housemates but who did not seem to be in favor of our moving in. Each morning there was a pile of his excrement right in front of our bedroom door. Almost more appalling than the size of the pile was our housemate’s insistence that we clean it up because clearly the dog was responding to us. Another woman who lived in that house had near dead house plants on the window sills. I was going through a heavy house plant phase at the time and offered to water her plants when I watered mine. These near dead plants were calling out to me. She chided me for even thinking about watering. Her idea was to keep the plants small and limit their growth by not watering. We left, as soon as we could find another place, and I liberated two of the half dead plants, one from the front hall as we were walking out. Really, they called out to me.
We asked more questions the next time and the time after that and landed in splendid houses that I enjoyed. The houses were both bigger than anything we could afford on our own. It was wonderful to have a door to close for privacy and a house full of people to prepare meals with and sit up with half the night talking. I would have returned to living like that after college but David did not enjoy the communal life as much as i did, and he was usually enough company for me.
After David died, I resolved that I was not going to live forever alone. I didn’t make any big move towards that idea. I did think about adopting another kid but I was too old and too single for China. I could have but did not move. Instead of moving or adding to my family, I cleaned, reorganized and renovated my family home, wondering at times if by getting rid of unused and unusable stuff, as well as finding specific places for what was left, I could make enough room to share my house. The sharing was not the aim of the renovations but it would have been a pleasant outcome. I considered looking for a working person or a grad student or an exchange student. The reality was that even with three bedrooms, I only have one small bathroom in a very small upstairs hall. Anyone who lived in the third bedroom would have to be open to sharing a lot of their life with Julia and I. And we would have to be likewise. It is hard to imagine finding a stranger who would immediately and seamlessly slide into our lives. It did and does not seem likely.
At one time, I was pretty adamant that I would not live in another house in Madison because I liked my house so much. I also thought I would move and share space with a friend and her family, but as that option faded, I began to question my intransigence about moving within Madison. There are two co-housing communities which have units for sale now and again. Also, there is, of course, the possibility of finding a larger house — a house with more bedrooms and laid out in a way that could support housemates.
Reading this over, I don’t even know where I am on the continuum of decision making. For now, at least at the beginning of this winter time, I am throwing the idea out to the universe and I will be eager to see what comes back. i have been living in this alone for more than four years now. It is time to consider what is next.