My parents were robbed of a conventional love story. The love story that involves two people meeting, agreeing to spend the rest of their lives together, and then actually doing it. Their story is different. They met in 1987, got married in 1990, had me in 91, conceived my sister in 92, and divorced in 2000. At 24 and three quarters, I’m just beginning to understand how the shift impacted me and how it has contributed to my abiding infatuation with love and family.

My father quickly linked up with another woman, but my mother didn’t have the same luck. Though she was a magnet to men, nothing stuck, and at 9 years old I was completely aware of how ravenous she was for this sense of “wholeness.” The type of wholeness that would make us a party of 4, not 3. The type of wholeness that would prevent her from saying she was a “single parent.” (You get where I’m going with this).

When I was 21 she married her new part to our new whole, my beloved step-father, whom I couldn’t imagine life without. And yet I can’t help but think about the 12 years that preceded their union. The 12 years of absent wholeness that made up so much of my becoming. I think this is why I crave the unity of other people’s families and lives. I think this is why my appreciation for good, reliable, sustainable love between all sorts of people, runs SO deep.

If someone asked how I spent my Saturday two weeks ago, the simplified version entails capturing the morning ritual of Jenna and Mason with their new baby Fitz. But to me it was so much more than that. It was documenting their wholeness, their marked partnership and calm love and respect for one another, along with their mutually deep love for their new son.

In true Erin-fashion, I probed them about their relationship: What it’s like to create this extension of themselves, how they balance time with one another, how their priorities have shifted... All the questions I’ll keep in mind when I experience what they’re experiencing, in a desperate attempt to carve out a different life for myself. Different from my parents, that is. Different in a sort of elite, I’m-not-going-to-get-a-divorce, kind of way. In an effort to be with someone that really lets me be ME.

Well Mason lets Jenna be Jenna, and Jenna lets Mason be Mason, and the whole thing is overwhelmingly beautiful. They told me having Fitz initiated the most intense bonding of their whole marriage. “I thought we were as close as we could be before the baby,” Jenna rehashed. If I remember correctly, Jenna told me that Mason literally had to put her underwear on her for an entire week after she gave birth. She spoke of the lingering pain and the perpetual bleeding that ensued after the fact. “Nobody tells you how much you’re going to bleed,” she added. Mason agreed, fully present with every aspect of the conversation, which naturally I loved. (Jenna if you are reading this, I’m sorry for being so personal, but it’s all so raw and wonderful to me). Their candor struck me because of the necessary dependency that took place during the weeks and months after her giving birth, and the simultaneous welcoming of that dependency. Mason’s presence is so felt that it’s as if he had the baby too. I’m not even kidding.

My favorite moments at their apartment were the moments they forgot I was there. The moments where they really just went about their morning the way they naturally would. In observing them I felt like I got to experience a part of my youth that I’ll never get back. And a sense of hope, oh the hope, for what I have to look forward to. If it looks anything like the family Mason, Jenna and Fitz have created, I know I’ll die happy.