A Common Story

A Common Story

by Jordyn Ruth

My life this year has undergone such a radical change that occasionally, I find myself unrecognizable.

Sometimes I miss our one-bedroom apartment. It was so warm and cozy. It only took 45 minutes to really clean every part of it. We had arranged our little kitchen so functionally that I almost forgot how small it was. 

Doug and I signed an extension of our lease for another year in January, hoping that some time in 2021 we’d be able to look for a house closer to family, but the timeline got sped up after Allie came to stay with us in March. 

At the beginning, we only had her for a week. Sleeping on a couch for a week isn’t so bad, especially with some really cuddly cats available. But as time went on and we all became more and more sure that this was not a temporary situation, it became clear that we had firmly outgrown our little space. 

The three of us lived in that one bedroom apartment for three months. We crowded onto our little couch, which had by then become Allie’s bed, and watched Studio Ghibli movies. We ate too many skittles and played too much Animal Crossing. I made various breads and Doug made them into tomato sandwiches to be sure we were all eating. 

Cocooned in our tiny apartment, we felt the weight of the global and social change raging outside it. We read the news on our phones and talked about it. The anxiety attacks came at night, and I clenched my teeth until my neck was tight and my jaw developed a charming new click that remains with me today. 

When we finally found a place we could almost afford in Allie’s school district, it was June. Because I dropped out of college, I find it very hard to ask my family for monetary help, but the house we found was so close to Doug and Allie’s older sister, Lauren, and her family, that I swallowed my pride and brought my parents into the situation. 

They were overjoyed to help and only through their kindness and generosity in co-signing our lease were we able to qualify for our new home. It is striking to me, the cyclical nature of parenting. I hope that one day Doug and I are able to provide and care for Allie in the way my parents have been willing and able to provide and care for us.

In a whirlwind week, we packed up all our earthly belongings and moved them from our tiny apartment into our new house. It was the first time I’d seen our friends since March. We masked up and packed up and ate pizza on our new porch 6 feet away from each other covered from head to toe in sweat and hand sanitizer. 

Allie had her own room! With her own door! It felt so good to deliver on that promise. She and Lauren designed her room together, painted it a new color, and really made the space feel like Allie’s. With more time than money, Doug and I tried our hands at furniture making. We used repurposed items, unfinished boards, and power tools to fill up our mostly empty space. I learned how to use a router to make shelves and how to sand down old varnish. I sanded, stained, and sealed a coffee table that my dad found while driving around on trash night looking for sturdy items neighbors were getting rid of.

One day in July, after finishing up a set of coat racks for our entryway, Doug and I sat in our new living room on opposite ends of Lauren’s old couch and had another talk about marriage. I had maintained for eight years and eleven months that marriage was something I did not want to bother with. I found the whole idea unsettling and inequitable, as well as culturally overblown, but as the stress and reality of having no official relationship with Allie grew, I came to see the legal benefits of marriage as more important and necessary than my own personal discomfort with the label. 

That day we decided, mutually, to sign the papers. A month later, August, on our ninth anniversary, we laid them out and signed them on our freshly transformed, trash-picked coffee table.

So now we have a new home. A place pieced together by the three of us, with help from our whole community. A place where our new family can gather to cry and laugh and celebrate and mourn. We’ve combined households with Lauren, so the seven of us come as one party now. This year, we’ve done a lot of mourning, but I see in our future the possibility for so much growth and joy. I’ve read that children can make you feel that way. 

The bleakness of the world and its inhabitants is a usual topic of conversation with my therapist, but the transformation that I have undergone this year is a small light. From an individual sharing an apartment with a partner to a member of a family, a community of mutual love and support. I have become an aunt, a guardian, a married person, and a florist, among other things and while the road remains rocky and the going remains slow, at least we walk together.


Featured in our January 2021 issue, "Changes"