Four years ago today, Drew, Renata, Tom and I sat in my parents’ basement biting our nails; the moving truck in the driveway was packed and we had already missed our closing date once. When we finally got the call to sign the paperwork and they handed the keys over, we were so excited. And we had no idea what we were getting into. But isn’t that how all families begin? People who love each other, ready for an adventure with no real wisdom, just a little naivete, idealism and crossed fingers? Thus The AckerJanes (a portmonteau of our last names) was born.
The idea of living together started as a joke in 2008, when both our families were living in basements, hunting for affordable housing. What began as “Let’s search for houses together!” changed to “Wouldn’t it be fun if we lived in the same neighborhood?” which eventually morphed into “Hey, maybe we should just get a house together. No, seriously, guys. Let’s get a house together.” Tom and Renata had Hayden and Jack (2 years and 11 months old, respectively) and I was just barely pregnant with Jolie. We settled on a brand new, three level, single family townhome with 4 bedrooms/2.5 baths (we’ve since expanded into two more bedrooms to house children) with a lot of windows and a park across the street in our hometown.
When people ask me what it’s like to live with another family, I liken it to being in another marriage. The four of us have had to learn how to communicate through different personalities, preferences and now, parenting. We’ve had to bite our tongues and figure things out. But we’ve also been privileged to pray for one another, be true confidants and secret keepers, commend successes, encourage and encourage again, celebrate birthdays (there are 9 of us; we celebrate birthdays all year round), stay up late and talk and talk and talk some more. And our relationship is so very different and so much deeper than the day we first moved in.
Relationships change you, especially the close ones, the ones you live with. I’ve heard it said that spouses and children are like mirrors walking around in our homes, reflecting all the very best and worst in us, exhorting us to change and grow. I really think that’s true. And I have 8 of them walking around.
I think that’s why I’m so proud of us and how we’ve made The AckerJanes work so well. You love family in part by obligation; you’re bound by blood. Marriage comes after you fall in love; those chemical reactions make it almost impossible to be without the other person. What we’ve done has truly been a choice. In the beginning, the choice was to try and live together, to not kill each other and to sacrifice privacy to save money. Now, it’s a daily choice to appreciate what our living situation has brought: always a listening ear, late night TV bingeing, parenting commiseration, true friendship. No one could ever deny that the four of us, we are truly friends.
Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that we are, in fact, in the good ole’ days, the ones that we’ll look back on in 10 years and try to conjure back. It’s good motivation to be fully present, even in the craziness.
And so, AckerJanes, I really am proud of us. Here’s to Breaking Bad (the one show we all completely agree on), TMI knowledge of each others’ marriages, our kids finally being old enough to play together unsupervised (FINALLY) and Renata doing the dishes (just kidding. Really, I am!). I love you and you’re making me a better person and though I’m not sure I want to co-live for the rest of my life, if I had to, I’d pick you.