Taking part in the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir Writing Challenge. This is Day Twenty-Four.
Home. Home has always been my retreat. I’ve always been careful about crafting my home, and on Crazy Chicken Annie’s advice, even as a young woman, I was careful about what I brought into my home. “Make sure you surround yourself with things you love.” It’s been a recurring theme as I’ve moved from a wild(ish) young woman, through my twenties, into motherhood, and into a more mature space now in my forties, where the house will slowly begin to empty. I have always wanted home to be my safe place- and by extension, for my home to feel safe for anyone who stepped over my threshold.
The chaos of having so many children in and out of the door means it’s not always a retreat, and earlier this year our smallest room emptied out as the first child headed off to college. My husband graciously asked if I’d like to turn that room into an office, so I could have my own clean, well-lit space. Oh yes. Yes, I thought, I would like that very much…
The empty room was actually surprisingly sad for the other kids, who miss seeing their sibling. I involved them in paint color opinions and in scouring thrift stores for lamps, curtains, and ideas, and then started slowly working towards creating a new, inviting space.
Over the course of the summer, I carefully curated the things I brought into the new room. It’s ostensibly mine, but it’s quickly become one of the most favorite, frequently peopled rooms in the house, despite it being the tiniest. Everything in this room has personal meaning, is important, or sentimental, or makes me feel good. The lighting is quirky and makes me happy, the sitting chair is old, sturdy, and the most comfortable seat in the house. Jon and Jeffrey compete for it, when the dog isn’t trying squeeze onto the old cushions. I have mementos from my travels, photos of loved ones spilling from a cork board, baskets of yarn and knitting needles, free to use. There is a clay bowl filled with black sand from a beach in Greece, a heart-shaped rock from a California river, a feather from Tyrol, a small cream pitcher from my great-grandmother, and a crystal from Mo hanging in the window.
The shelves have books I have read and love, books that have helped me, saved me, and become as friends. There are gentle inside jokes, gifts and drawings from the kids, my Hamilton playbill, and original art from dear friends. Bean has a pillow near Wallace the Bookcase (my best thrift store find) where he’s stake out “his spot”. Tiberius, never more than a few inches from me, snores soundly and my feet and I have to be careful not to step on his velvety ears when I stand up. The things that I love fill this space, and it’s where I go to write.
An interesting thing has happened— it’s become everyone’s favorite room. My husband keeps his computer in here now, leaning against the comfy chair, instead of at his own desk. At night, the kids will fill all the space, taking the chair, laying on the floor reading, giggling and talking. There is a closeness, not just because it’s a small room, and six people and a dog are hanging out. The low light in the evening, the careful curation of items invited in, the sense of place and story and care in the space- humans respond to this. We can feel love in different ways, and we can feel when someone loves something. Everyone who comes in this room can feel it, and they seek it out. It’s become a retreat not just for me, but for my family.