My face was fleshier, my eyes had dark circles (think raccoon), and my hair was poofier (it was the late 80s), but that was definitely my reaction to Chuck's plan of moving in with his parents "temporarily."

What does moving back “home” really mean?

During the fall of 1989, I contacted the professor with whom I had previously done grant research. She was was thrilled to hear I was returning home because she received another grant and was looking for a reliable research assistant. And she didn’t know I was sober this time around. The grant wouldn’t begin until the summer of 1990 and we just sold our condo, so we could move any time. We sub-let a condo on a month-to-month basis while we looked for jobs.

I was hired as a full-time temporary sociologist at the community college back home. They interviewed me over the phone and hired me sight unseen. Beginning in January 1990, I taught 6 sociology courses (5 was a full load). Until that time, I had taught 1 course for GWU and done 3 guest lectures. Preparing and teaching 6 courses was an absurd incongruous amazing amount of work.

Just to be clear, I'm the pony in the this picture, hauling more than I can handle. Poor stupid, er, innocent pony and selfish college administrators, er, girls, for overburdening this little beast.

Chuck hadn’t found a job yet, so Alex and I moved in with his parents. He commuted 9 hours each weekend to see us and house-hunt until he found a job. We moved into his parents’ house because they lived in an rehabbed 16-room farm-house and my mom lived in an non-rehabbed 6-room trailer. I like to attribute the decision purely to physics, but I have a sneaky suspicion feeling Chuck wanted to be on his turf.

Awkward at first, we eased into a routine where I tried to fit into their routine. My in-laws were very gracious and generous. They loved having their grandson around. When they wanted their privacy, they had a vacation cabin in the Adirondacks on a small lake. When I wanted my privacy, I closed my eyes.

Ah, yes. I am a desirable, beautiful actress without the shackles of daily life...or the shackles of daily clothes. I love life behind my eyelids.

Work on my dissertation stalled because work as an enslaved busy college professor was homicidal crushing overwhelming challenging. I did, however, spend a great deal of time with Alex. During this time, I discovered that, maybe I wasn’t such a doofus-mother after all.

It was a typical evening.  I was exhausted; Alex was revved.  He needed to go to bed, mostly so I could. We splashed through his bath. I cajoled him to accomplish the dreaded brushing-of-teeth.  We flipped and wiggled him into his footed pajamas.  It was finally time read his favorite book for the 100th time.   This was the last hurdle before prayers and blissful “lights out.”

Like all good mothers, I was beginning to despise these cute story-book characters.

We were sitting on the edge of his “big-boy” bed.  I prepared myself to get enthusiastic in the face of reading the same old words, pointing to the same old pictures.  Then I got an idea.

“Once upon an elephant, there was a hamburger named Todd and a bathtub named Copper…”

Alex looked up at me, wide-eyed.  He took the book from me and looked at the front to see if it was different.  “Mommy, read it.”  He pointed to the first page.  He knew the words by heart and these new words were “wrong.”

“Okay, Honey.  Once upon a donkey, there was a hiccup—“

Alex’s laugh erupted from his toes and burst out in guffaws of uncensored joy.  A contagion of laughter infected the room. He threw himself backwards on the bed, laughing so hard his little-boy body convulsed.  My mommy body shook, rattled and rolled, too.  I threw myself backward to join him in horizontal hysterics.  Laughter morphed to tears of joy washing over our faces, pooling in our ears.

“Mommy, I love you,” Alex said, looking at me through blue-gray eyes blurred with his sweet tears.

“Oh, Honey, I love you, too,” I hugged him hard and squeezed a few more giggles out of him.  I wished Chuck could’ve been there to share in this silliness and sweetness.  But that moment was meant to be shared between this unlikely mother and miracle child.

Alex and I share ready smiles, appreciation of humor, and innate kindness. Not bad for a mother who didn't have a clue.

“Read the funny way more, Mommy.  Please?” I did. Forevermore.

Chuck moved up in late February, when he got a job in the financial sector. We started our house-hunting in earnest. After living in the D.C. area, we expected homes to be reasonably-priced; but we were buying in an anorexic anemic small seller’s market.

Can you believe that my lucky underpants didn't work in finding us a good deal? They'd always come through before--but, then again, I'd always worn them under tight white pants...

Then Chuck got an idea. Many times he had shown me an abandoned house about 3 miles from his parent’s home—“I’m going to own that house someday,” he told himself as a child. He was fixin’ to make his dream come true.

Look at her, Lovey. She's a beauty, I tell you. Dahling, look at her with your heart, not your eyes, like we look at our bank account. We simply must have her.

What does Chuck’s dream mean for Lorna?