Rock onSo, we got SuperGirlfriend a ring yesterday.
All the kids were there. The moment when I slid it onto her finger for the first time... words won't get there, but try 'joy'. Or 'euphoria'. Or 'ecstacy'.
Actually, there was more to it than that. A feeling of utmost satisfied happiness... like after looking for my entire adult life, I'd finally found where I belonged.
Like I'm home.
In my childhood, we moved from house to house a great deal. I'm sure I can't remember them all, but I know we lived in at least two different houses in Watkins Glen, another two in Montour Falls, an upstairs apartment in a broken down farm house in a miserable little town named Katherine, an apartment in Waterloo... I spent about six weeks living in my grandmother's back bedroom in sixth grade. Then we moved to Holland, NY and lived in two different houses there.
In my childhood, there were a few different places that felt like 'home' to me... the basement bedroom I had for four years or so when I went to high school in Holland. And, maybe oddly, the house in Corning my great Aunt Hazel owned and shared with her sister, my great Aunt Helen. (Great in every sense of the word; I still miss them both.)
In college I lived in dorms, then in a house on Strong Avenue with four housemates (whose identities changed over the course of the two years I lived there), another house over on South Beech, one on Cambridge Avenue, one brief stay in basement apartment I rather liked, despite the psychotic bitch I rented it from, a tiny studio apartment on Westcott Street, then off to the North Side where I lived in one apartment, then another, on North Salina for about ten years, until I got chased out of Syracuse entirely by the culminated consequences of bad life choices and Pataki's idiotic economic policies. Then I lived in my mom's spare bedroom, then in an overpriced apartment in Tampa in an ant colony apartment complex, then in my brother's apartment in Zephyrhills, then in a tiny cinder block duplex.
All that, prior to SuperGirlfriend swooping to my rescue, loading all my crap in the back of a rented U-Haul, and driving me back up here.
I made some good memories in most of those adult dwellings, or at least, most of them had reasons I liked them. Dorm rooms aren't homes, but my first ever romantic relationship was conducted entirely in dorm rooms (well, we spent a week at her parents house over Christmas break one year, true) and that was nice. I did a lot of gaming and spent quite a few nights in pleasant bullshit sessions with college buddies in dorms, as well. Read a lot of books and comics, typed a lot of papers, rolled a lot of dice, ate a lot of Zorba's pizza, had one particularly excellent Christmas celebration with my college clique. Life went on that way for the most part in every house and apartment I lived in in Syracuse, too... which may be why I miss Syracuse so much; the extended childhood just never ended, despite the endless array of rotten temp and permanent jobs I worked during that period to finance it after dropping out of college.
The house on Strong Avenue I moved into with four good buddies, comic book geeks all. After a knock down drag out fight over it, we named the house Stately Wayne Manor, and things were fine until our old buddy Slappy moved in in September (he'd been abroad for a semester sparking Scott McLeod's future wife Ivy over the summer). By the time that next school year ended, friendships were strained and everyone but me moved out, but still, I have fond memories of that house, and the big upstairs bedroom I lived in for a year after I filled the rest of the house with relative strangers.
The house on South Beech was a tumbledown wreck but it had an interesting basement and a nice big kitchen and a big empty sun porch off the kitchen where Tom Dunning lived in nice weather, and a huge sagging front porch that was mostly enclosed by rusty old screens where you could sit in the gloom on a beat to crap old couch my housemate Mike Schechter and I had rescued from a street corner and watch the whole world go by, without any of it knowing you were there. We were right next to SuperDuper and right behind Westcott Cinema and we did a lot of gaming sessions there and a girl named Lynn spent the weekend with me there once and yeah, we got burgled twice and I was working as a bagboy at Peter's for most of our time there, but still, I liked that old house.
The house on Cambridge where I rented an upstairs bedroom had a wonderful little private screened in second floor porch/balcony that overlooked the back yard; just big enough for a chair and a card table and I sat out on that porch the entire summer after I got back from Basic Training and ate Peppino's Pizza and read and re-read Zelazney's Blood of Amber over and over again, because I liked it that much. And an ex girlfriend visited me in that house for a few days, which ended awkwardly, and a few other girls visited me in that room, too, including one in particular who came up to help me pack (when I was moving to the basement apartment) and didn't actually help me pack at all.
The basement apartment was fine until the Late Great Jeff Webb came to stay for a weekend one time and my landlady, who lived in the house above the basement, suddenly became a whirling psychotic. To get me out of there and make sure I never transgressed against her insane policies by having an overnight guest again, she started doing fun things like turning off my heat and searching the apartment in the day time while I was working at Sunburst Optics and moving my stuff around just enough so I'd know she was there. So I got out of there and into a small studio apartment off Westcott Street, about which I have nothing good to say at all; from there I moved into a back apartment on top of a threadbare clothing store on North Salina Street, and I stayed in that apartment until the larger front apartment in that building opened up, after which my then girlfriend Kristy and I moved in there and adopted a kitten I named Casablanca and we played a lot of Magic and I got my first computer and we nearly went broke running up the AOL hourly bill (remember when AOL billed by the hour? Jesus) and we had a lot of not particularly exciting sex and did a lot of RPGing and had a few good Christmases and one or two that weren't so good. We outlasted some spectacularly lousy neighbors, and then my then girlfriend dumped me for my then friend Gary and eventually I got evicted and moved to Florida.
The apartment in Tampa was a nice big one with a pool, and after a few years the mall across the street put in a cinema multiplex and there was a Boston Market about a mile up the street and all that was very pleasant. It was a ground floor apartment with two apartments over it and I was all the way down on the far end of the building so when the pipes clogged about four times a year everybody's sewage started to back up into my bathtub, which sucked. I was never happy in that apartment and I was always lonely, but I have to admit, I loved that pool and I loved those movie theaters and I miss them still.
Then I got evicted from those apartments because the State of Florida only allows landlords to raise rents by a certain percent a year on residents, and the street value of living space in Florida always rises by more than that percentage, so after you've been in an apartment a few years the landlords regard themselves as losing money by renting to you. So I got evicted so they could rent the apartment for more money to someone new, and I ended up moving in with my brother in a horrible little town named Zephyrhills, which, if you Google it, you'll start to discover just why I say that, and how much it's true. Which had a lot of bad (roaches!) and some good to it, but when my brother's best friend Scott turned out to be a sociopatch and the woman my brother fell in love with was a crazy married bitch who I knew was going to be terrible for him and whom I couldn't stand anyway, I moved into that tiny little cinder block duplex, about which I have no good memories except I wasn't in my brother's apartment any more, and then SuperGirlfriend came down and rescued me, and now I'm home.
It's not the apartment, although this apartment is easily the roomiest, loveliest, most pleasant apartment I've ever lived in, and I love our huge front porch and I love our basement and our big back bedroom and our gynormous living room and SuperGirlfriend is very fond of the built in pantry in the kitchen and some day, when we have enough money, I'd like to rent the single room studio across the hallway to use as an office, because it's the apartment I lived in when I first moved here and I hate seeing other people living in it.
It's not the neighborhood, although I love this neighborhood, populated as it is with pleasant, affluent liberal folks who plaster their cars with bumper stickers saying WHEN CLINTON LIED NOBODY DIED and RE-ELECT GORE IN 2004, and second hand junk stores and interesting little restaurants and a pretty cool comics/geekware shop named THE GREAT ESCAPE and a head/music shop called ELECTRIC LADYLAND and a fabulous record store called EAR X-TASY and a nice big supermarket where I worked cleaning floors last summer and don't work cleaning floors any more, and shot through as it is with lovely narrow unpaved alleys lined by wooden fences all overgrown with ivy, behind which, whenever SuperGirlfriend and I walk down them in the early purple evening light holding hands, you can hear dogs barking and people talking and sometimes kids running and laughing and playing, and where nearly every house has a big sprawling front porch and we never run out of houses we can point to and say "I really like THAT house", all the while knowing that the house we like most of all is the one we actually live in.
No, it isn't any of that, although I've never lived in any house or any neighborhood or any city where I felt more at home.
It's people that make up the map of the heart, or at least, the map of my heart, and the map of my heart is filled with SuperGirlfriend and SuperDrama Teen and SuperDependable Teen and SuperAdorable Kid.
Yesterday, the love of my life let me put an engagement ring on her finger, and our kids stood around and cheered while I did it, and all day long she kept looking at it with awe and wonder and giving me goofy happy little grins.