Enough boxes had been unpacked. Enough furniture was bartered, begged and bought to fill at least some of the space in the two-story pink house. Enough money was saved up to buy food and drink for invited guests and to host a grown-up party.
It was time for a party to celebrate my purchase of my very own house, to celebrate my independence and willingness to live on my own unafraid of stalkers, to celebrate my decision to stay in Flint, Michigan, for at least five more years.
Three months earlier, I found a house I could divide and sublet to help cover the monthly mortgage. It was within walking distance of my employer in a neighborhood I already had spent nearly four years in. Friends, museums and music were nearby.
In 1982, few single women bought houses in Flint, Michigan. But I was determined to invest in the city and listen to my grandfather who preached that renting was like throwing your money in the garbage and move on with the lifestyle I chose. Only a year earlier, I acknowledged it would be a bigger mistake to continue a six-year marriage and divorced the man I fell for during the dreamlike days of college. We had already spent three of those years living apart; it was time to sever the last ties.
It took a year to recover emotionally and financially from the official action of separation. But I was ready and started looking for the right house.
I checked the house closely with a friend who knew a lot about electricity, plumbing and carpentry. I looked over the city inspection records (and later learned why it's important to check the relationship of the inspector and property owner). I reviewed property assessment records to make sure I offered a fair price.
With the help of a last-minute loan to pay unexpected costs, I signed the papers that tied me to real estate payments for 30 years. With the help of a few friends and family, I moved in shortly before Christmas.
The next weeks were spent removing features I hated - gold wallpaper with black flocking, for instance, - and getting things comfortable.
I was also getting comfortable with something unusual - a steady relationship with one man. In fact, since I left one date to go on one with this guy in early December I'd spent at least part of every day with him. That was unusual for a woman who dated many or none since moving out in 1979 and divorcing in 1981.
Still marriage was not on my mind - been there, done that.
I picked the date for the open house, ready to celebrate my independence with family and friends. The invites were out, RSVPs started coming back, and I was ready to share my new home with all.
I don't remember the exact date this new guy and I started talking about the possibility of a more permanent relationship. We kept talking, meeting each other's families, talking, exploring and talking.
Then one day, we slipped from someday to now. In fact, we decided let's get married and tell everyone when they come to the open house. It would be a simple exchange of wedding vows followed by an already planned celebration.
In a moment of sanity, we told our parents, brothers and sisters. Suddenly, the plans expanded to include a wedding day breakfast following the ceremony in our living room. The 30 or so members of our immediate family from the Detroit area, Ohio and Flint-area communities wanted to witness the marriage.
The wedding was a surprise to most friends who came to the open house. Many said they were not surprised we had tied the knot, just that we would do so after knowing each other less then four months.
The weather was another surprise that day - warm enough that people did not need a jacket to stand outside on the porch. Somehow, a spring day snuck into a Michigan winter.
Another surprise was the birth of our Leap Day baby a year later.
Surprises continue to come into our lives. But I wasn't surprised that roses came today with a note that says "the honeymoon isn't over yet."
Neither is the making of our home together.