What I’m talking about is SPACE.
Somewhere along the way, someone took my space from me. Okay, everyone took my space from me. I didn’t have it for very long, and I miss it so.
I remember as a child, how I longed for my own room. Do kids even share bedrooms these days? It seems like you aren’t middle-class enough if you don’t have more bedrooms than people in your family.
I shared a bedroom with my little sister. The room was one of the many additions my dad had built on to the house. It didn’t have a door. There was a curtain, a home-made one, of course, on a home-made curtain rod, which it seems may have been a broom handle at one time.
It was a big room, but as a girl approaches adolescence, a girl wants her own space. Finally, my parents let me move upstairs, to the cold, cold upstairs, with an electric blanket. The two rooms up there had been vacated by my older sisters some years before, and were just full of storage. We piled all the junk into one room, and I got the other.
It was heaven. Even with the shivering, the mice, and, in summer, the 3:00 a.m. birds singing in the tree right outside the window. I stayed up late doing awesome school projects with popsicle sticks, taping songs off the weekend hit countdown on the radio, and worrying about adolescent stuff in private. Sometimes I stayed up as late as ELEVEN O’CLOCK!!! I’d have stayed up later, but my mom came upstairs and made me go to bed.
This arrangement lasted for two years, until my mom got a job in the next town over, and we decided to get an apartment there for during the week instead of commuting. We liked the idea of going to a bigger school—plus there was no way we were living all week with just dad, who cooked, among other disgusting things, spaghetti chopped up in little pieces because he thought it was easier to eat that way.
And then my older sister and her new baby (who now has a math degree—hi, Suz!) moved back home and decided to join in the fun. So, it was now dad, with his poor cooking skills, alone in the big country house, and us five gals in the two-bedroom apartment laughing it up. It was the kind of apartment building where you tried to ignore the blood smeared on the hallway walls on Sunday mornings.
Here’s a capsule life story told in terms of when I did and didn’t have to share a room. There were ups and downs. My parents went back to school and we moved into family student housing (my sister and I were both teenagers by then, so this was definitely a down); they bought a house and renovated the basement, where I got to live alone in university (up!) briefly, until said older sister (now with two kids) needed to join me. I still had my own room at this point, but someone had measured wrong when renovating, because there wasn’t room for a wall in-between the closet to one room and the closet to the next room, which resulted in a toddler and a preschooler emerging from my closet at any time with no prior warning. AND ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS MAKE OUT WITH MY BOYFRIEND.
Grad school brought with it the best “up” years in terms of personal space, as I made enough in scholarships to live alone most of the time. Early working life in Toronto, not bad, own room and only a small war with mice and with cockroaches along the way. Even once I moved in with someone (whom I eventually married), I had a little office of my own to work in. And at work? I had my own office at almost every one of my significant jobs until… 2008.
That’s when I started teaching. And got pregnant. And now I have a cubicle, a house full of stuff and rooms and not a stitch of private space anywhere.
Woolf said you needed money and a room of your own in order to write. I think we can translate money as “time,” which anyone who’s every applied for a project grant knows.
This is all to say that one of my many, many, unreasonably large number of goals for the nine weeks of relative calm I have this summer, is to set up better what personal space I have in my own home. I might try the old “make a wall out of bookshelves” trick – goodness knows I have enough books. Or maybe I could use a sheet and an old broom to make a curtain between two pieces of furniture and hang up a “Stay Out – Mommy’s Space!” sign. I don’t know.
But I’m adding it to my to-do list.