When we decided neither of us was keeping the home we had built a mere two years earlier, I looked at many neighborhoods, many homes, and a couple of other school districts. Fortunately, I made enough to afford to buy a home on my own. So I didn’t have to consider apartments. Bob too could swing a home mortgage and expenses on his own. We would both have to downgrade on the luxuries slightly and not have as much money left over for extras after the mortgage for sure.
I decided to stay in the exceptional school district we were in and I got lucky enough to find another home in the same neighborhood, about a quarter-mile away on a street that I knew had several boys Ian’s age. It was on a cul-de-sac and backed up to a ravine. No neighbors and plenty of woods and stream behind us. While the home was smaller, the lot was an upgrade, something that eased the pain of losing our other home that we had built.
Bob, being in the building industry himself as a subcontractor in the glass and mirror sector chose to build a home that was in an up and coming neighborhood through a thin line of trees and across one main road directly behind my house. It was only about a quarter-mile as the crow flies. So I knew as Ian got older, he’d eventually be able to go between our two houses on foot or by bike.
Of course something I didn’t think about as much was how much easier that living so close made things for everyone. Since we were in the same school district, there were some years where Ian could take the bus from and to either home. And when that wasn’t the case, Ian’s dad was so close, he could drop him off to me in the morning since he worked earlier and I could put him on the bus. This gave me a chance each day to see my son before school. Yet another strategy for regaining some of that “half of his life” I was missing. Then there was the ongoing transfer of clothes, toys, sports equipment, homework, and music instruments in between homes. When he was young, of course I or his father packed his stuff up. As he got older, Ian started doing it himself. Whether it was us or him, there were hundreds of items over the years that had to be retrieved from one house or another. His dad used to get pretty frustrated with Ian for forgetting stuff but I reminded him that it couldn’t be easy living in two places at once. I had never done it and was sure given my crappy memory that I’d have been running back and forth in between houses at least daily and maybe even hourly to get a particular jacket, book, or stuffed animal.
To minimize this madness, we bought duplicates of some of the main items. We also used this strategy to offer roughly the same experience at each home. We even bought him the same bed. As much as Bob and I had competed during our marriage to win every conversation, neither of us was interested in seeing the other one lose in the parenting game. We had finally found a motivation to be nice to one another. So we purchased two swing sets, two bikes, plenty of clothes for both houses, and two drum kits. Oh there had to be two drum kits! Otherwise, one of us would have never seen our child or we would have been stuck carting that set back and forth for years to come. As it turned out, when Ian reached 5th grade and created his first rock band, we did end up carting around the drums a lot. Except rather than it being between homes, it was from the house to a show and back. And yes, we both helped load in and load out. When Ian got big enough to carry the drums himself, we chose solidarity and both declared our days as roadies over. Cue the frowns on 5 adolescent boys’ faces as they realized they weren’t rock stars and would have to carry their own shit.
Also with adolescence came some other benefits to the close living arrangement we had chosen. Since there was literally only one house blocking my view of Bob’s backyard from my back door, I was comfortable allowing Ian to walk between our homes since I could watch him walk most of the way and his dad could see him on the other side when I lost sight. This was very handy not only when items were forgotten at the other home but also worked out quite well during the middle-school years when Ian got along much better with the kids on Bob’s street than on mine. This was great. I never wanted Ian to prefer one home over another because of circumstances. And I never wanted him to be bummed out that he had to go to another home and leave his friends behind for a week. Oh sure, there was some of this. Especially when our inter-district boundaries were different and the kids in Bob’s neighborhood ended up at a different middle-school and high school. In general, though, I think this arrangement’s benefits went a long way to improve the circumstances of our separated family. But it didn’t happen by accident. We chose to make it happen this way.