There is something to be said for not having to share your space. Call me selfish, but up until recently I never had a room of my own. Growing up, I shared a room with my brother and, although he is two years older than I, a lot of his stuff stayed behind when he left for college. There were still two beds, two dressers and no room for a desk. Not to mention, I saw all those trophies, awards, and photographs on our little bookcase – all the junk that a high school jock collects over four years, and I was not the jock.
Finally, when I bought my own house, the situation hardly improved. Once again, I ended up sharing a room with another person. Okay, that person was my lovely wife and, I would never complain about sharing a bedroom with her. That would be stupid. Everyone knows that a lot of nice things can come from sharing a room and a bed with the person you love. In my case, three great kids. Unfortunately, the three great kids all wanted a room of their own. Within a very short period every bedroom in our house was claimed. Paula and I in one room. My eldest son in another, and my two younger boys, regretfully, doubled up, just like my brother and me.
Add up all those bedrooms, and you get three. So how did I lose a room of my own in our four bedroom house? That, of course, went to my wife, Paula, who turned bedroom number four into a very nice office with a fancy desk, lots of bookcases, family photos and paintings. Once again, I was doing my work, not at a desk I could call my own, but at the kitchen table, replete with the evening’s leftovers. What? Complain? Never.
I had almost given up hope when I realized that the problem was my oversized ambition. I didn’t need a room, I just needed a space I could call my own, someplace where I could put my desk, my lamp, my chair, and my big bookcase for all those things – including books – that are meaningful to me and probably no one else.
This great awakening came after selling one four-bedroom house for another four- bedroom house. Not surprisingly, all the bedrooms in the new house were also claimed, and not a single one for me. I was, however, still allowed to sleep with my wife in the same room. Thank you, Paula. The new house, by the way, had a very nice room for a study. Guess what? I didn’t get it and, by this time, each of my adult claimed a room for when they visited. How could I say no?
My personal space breakthrough came during COVID when we decided to turn the gigantic open space, formerly known as the basement, into something beyond a storage area for old bikes, old skis, photo albums, broken furniture, carpet remnants, empty paint cans, and power tools that belonged in the garage.
Today, we lovingly refer to the basement as the lower level. It was either that or money pit, and money pit seemed so declassee. On the lower level, is a great room with a ginormous flat-screen TV, two guest bedrooms, a full bath, and a space by the basement door that holds a desk, a chair, a lamp, a file cabinet, and a very large bookcase. Finally, my own private space. The bookcase has five shelves and plenty of room for my stuff. Notable among my stuff is a photograph of my grandmother from 1916 when she was seven years old and living in Belarus. My grandmother can be seen in beautiful black and white, leaning on a parasol, with her parents, grandparents, and siblings. It’s a wonderful photograph that I cherish.
I’m amazed by how much pleasure I derive from the personal mementos I’ve been putting on those shelves. While the photograph of my grandmother is the oldest, the newest is a ceramic red bull that I picked up during my trip to Spain last year. If you go to Spain, there isn’t a shop that doesn’t sell the universal symbol for bullfighting in a hundred different designs. I can’t say I’m a fan of the sport, but the bulls have been turned into an art form and, for 29 Euros, I just had to have one. There are also 7 new books, 1 award, a ceramic Buddha, a glass vase, a gourd that looks like a very large pear, and 19 more photographs, including a picture of me from 1975 when I won the Skyline Conference wrestling title at the 188-pound weight class. I kept that in a drawer for 45 years, and although it hasn’t faded one bit, I sure miss all that hair. The pictures are the best. Black and white images of me and my siblings when we were children, Paula and I standing in a field of barley in England, and another of us at a black-tie affair, dressed to the nines. There also are lots of pictures of my kids when they were kids. My youngest is now 27, but the most recent picture on my bookcase of any of them is when they were 14, 12 and 9. Today, they are good-looking adults, but they were really cute kids.
When I look at everything, which is almost every day, I’m overcome with a feeling of place: my happy place, my home, my corner of the house where past and present come together in a wonderful river of remembrances. It only took 64 years, but my space, (it’s sort of like a room) puts me where I always wanted to be.