When I left Denver this winter I was moving out of my house I shared with a partner for many years. I wish I could say it had been a difficult move but we had stayed together the last year for the sake of my youngest son and waiting a little longer for the real estate market to recover. It was time to sell and both of us were ready to begin life again completely away from one another’s orbit. We were both very adult about the end of our relationship despite our friendship weathering a rough spot last summer and fall. We moved to a place of just wanting the other to be fulfilled and happy in her own life. I hadn’t seen her since my moving day in April when I was trussed in a brace and having to just stand about while friends and family (including a sweet ex-husband) moved my stuff for me.
I had some shopping I wanted to do in Denver so I planned an entire day of just that and stopped by to see my ex-girl. We had both managed to end up with boxes of things belonging to the other. The Girl is a remarkable woman; so incredibly talented: a chef, a handywoman who can do just about anything around the house, too. She moved back into her house she preserved as a rental while we lived together. But the renters thrashed it and she had to bleed a lot of money to fix and repair. I was excited to see the final product and I had been hopeful for an invitation. I got one! Not only was I fetching a box of god knows what but my sizable half of our escrow! (Hello Europe in September!)
I love her beautiful house. I always have. But now it’s even more charming. It’s a tiny post war cottage, maybe 800 square feet–at the most–in a dodgy urban neighborhood that is on the upswing. She opened up the kitchen area that had been divided into two miniscule areas. Now it’s truly a small open kitchen: all open shelving and a clever mix of furniture and stainless steel units. Someday I hope to have a kitchen like that with a mad mish mash of furniture and open shelving rather than cabinets. Because it’s tiny, she had to invest in tiny cook’s grade appliances. Her miniature Viking stove is on order. I’m salivating over the very idea of such a thing. I do love my kitchen in the ramshackle yellow house but I had serious envy. I wonder if The Handsome Stranger will notice I’ve ripped all the cabinets out once he returns from his other home? (Just kidding, dear. Your house is safe.)
“Our” furniture she took with her is completely perfect in her living room. The Girl never thought of herself as particularly good with color, placement and decorating. I spent seven years trying to convince her she did have an eye for design but the home making was always left to me. Admittedly, I have a knack for it and love doing it. Before I left her home that morning, The Girl paid me the sweetest compliment when I pointed out how nice her collection of trip mementos looked on a beautiful and spare gallery shelf.
“I ‘lauraized’ it. See? I paid attention and learned a lot from you.”
I know I beamed when she said that because I’ve long held—since we decided things weren’t working for us over a year ago—how much she had changed my life and all she taught me. I went on to tell her how much I had learned from her: My men folk muse and remark about things I know in the kitchen how I can calculate and repair a recipe with just the right combination of spices; the tricks I know to fixing dead simple but tasty food. All taught to me by The Girl. The Handsome Stranger was a little surprised at what I know about home repair. I know the steps of major construction and minor repair. I couldn’t do it but I know which tool to grab for him and where things are at The Big Orange Store.
After we finished our business and the conversation waned, I hugged her good bye. My embrace was not a message of regret and loving the back of her head but of a deeply felt sense of grace and gratitude. What grace to walk away from a long relationship without residual scars and baggage. The lessons we taught one another were not lessons to regret. I call that a measure of a successful relationship. If I’m blessed with another long-term relationship I know I will carry this grace with me. And if you’re reading this Next Person: you have some big shoes to fill.