The Not Boyfriend and I have been discussing these plans for him to move to Chicago for some time, vaguely at first and then in more detail. We'll take it slow, we've agreed again and again. He will move here and we will learn what it is like to date in the same city. Eventually, we'd like to share a home (but not closets). First, we'll tend to the transition.
I told a few of my friends. Shared the information with my parents and brother. But I kept the news casual, in that vague space until it was time to share it all with Lil E. When he knew, I knew it would all be crystallized and real.
No more one days and maybes. Stuff that we could mark on the dry-erase calendar propped on our kitchen floor. I knew the conversation was coming but I couldn't plan it.
Then one night a couple of weeks ago, we were eating dinner and talking lightly about something that happened during the day.
"I have something to tell you," I said. He looked up. He loves news. "The Not Boyfriend has decided to move here. To be closer to us."
The light in his eyes turned up. His half-smile shot out to the corners his dimples make on his face.
"OH! This is so great!," he blurt out. "Because you will be happier and I will be happier and he can get to know Grandpa and Grandma more and it's going to be so great!"
I couldn't cry. I was smiling too wide myself.It was time for him to talk.
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Because...we're all going to be happier. And he can stay here sometimes and we can stay at his house sometimes. And you can have someone to be with when I am at Daddy's and we can all hang out together."
He was saying all the words. The ones that may have been prompted. The responses he may have thought I wanted to hear if I asked more questions. But he was saying them all on his own.
"So while he is at his training for the National Guard, you and I have a very important responsibility to help him in his move. We need to find him an apartment. Can you help me with that?"
He was quiet for a moment, so I took my turn.
"He asked that you help me because your opinion is important."
"Oh YEAH," he interrupted excitedly. "Like maybe his place can have room for some of my Legos. Or a room where I can spend the night if I want to."
How had he known this was the discussion? We were in sync.
"Would you like to do that?" I put it back to him.
"Yes. And like, maybe sometimes, we can hang out there or here," he went on. "Either place."
"And he'd like an apartment that can fit a big dining room table," I told him. "Where we can have dinners and invite our friends."
"Maybe some of my friends, too?" he asked. "And their parents?"
"Yes, of course," I answered.
"Yeah," he said, and spooned another bite of mac-and-cheese into his mouth.
The next day, we visited my parents. The sun was bright in the living room and Lil E dumped a bag of soft blocks he has loved since he was a toddler out on to the floor. He pulled Lego Clone Troopers out of my purse to play in the foam structures he built.
"Tell Grandma the news about the Not Boyfriend," I whispered.
His head popped up.
"He's moving here! And Mommy and I are going to find him an apartment with a big dining room so we can have dinners there and he can cook. And Mommy will be happy and so I will be happier, too."
My mom squealed like she hadn't known.
"This is so great for all of us," she said. Lil E nodded at her, then turned to me and flashed me the face he uses for private, across-the-room communication -- a closed-mouth smile, eyes soft, then a wink.
It is all coming together, I thought.
It won't all be easy. The fear still resides in there. Tough moments and trying talks are ahead, I am quite sure. But I will hold on to that private smile, that "You will be happier. And I will be happier..." tightly, and with two hands.
This summer we will be seeking a new apartment together. Not one that he and I will live in more than a night or two at a time. But one that will hold more than a bin of toys or a few stray Legos, a lipstick and a hair band. Our hearts will be there, gathered around with the Not Boyfriend's and our friend's and all those beats of hopefulness for this next place we meet.