Quite a few Mother’s Days ago, when our 4 children were all very small (and had many needs), my sweet husband asked how I would like to celebrate the day. And I answered him, with the raw honesty born of extreme sleep deprivation: I wanted him to peel the kids’ 40 fingers off of my ankles, and I wanted to step into our walk-in closet, and close the door behind me, and turn off the light, and just sit there on the floor in the solitude and the dark and the quiet for 30 minutes. Honestly, this is what I wanted and it sounded like heaven to me! And I suspect there are many parents of small children who can understand just how luxurious such a possibility could be.
When we purchased our home, I didn’t imagine that our walk-in closet would one day look like a blessed retreat to me. I’m pretty sure no homebuyer has ever toured a home and looked at a closet and said, “Wow! I can run away to this spot when I am 3 quarts low on mommying reserves! It’s a perfect vacation spot!” But when we search for houses, we can’t always imagine how the coming days will reveal themselves. We might anticipate that we’d like a fenced yard; it is harder to imagine that we’d want a Vacation Closet. But that is one of the wonderful things about our homes: it is where our lives happen to us.
Mother’s Day morning 2014, in a thoroughly still and unpeopled house (really??), I stepped into that closet and thought about the irony that the house was now quiet in 5 bedrooms, and not just a closet. This wasn’t a sad moment…nor was it a celebration. It was just a realization, with a smile, that a lot had gone on inside these walls in the intervening years. Our lives happened here.
I’m sitting at a table in my kitchen, looking at a wall which is now painted one solid color, but for many years it was many-colored. Actually it was covered with multi-colored handprints. In a nod to the fingerprints that turned up everywhere (remember these kids had 40 fingers to work with!), we decided to decorate the wall with handprints. We dipped their hands in wall paint of various colors, and made a cheerful array of handprints on the wall. It was fun, and it was good camouflage for the fingerprints…and it adorned the wall for a long time. Just a few years ago, when they all had grown hands that made those prints look very, very tiny, we painted over it. The visual of the wall no longer tells the story, but we remember it as part of our story in this place.
Our living room was first a playroom and kids’ craft space, brimming with toys and books and paints. Then it was the homework station, with a work table, a few computer desks, and lots of printer paper. Now it is waiting to be reinvented again, and while I percolate on what might happen next (it becomes the dining room when we knock down some walls and the dining room becomes part of the kitchen??), I kind of like that it sits in limbo waiting for us to decide. And, I realize, in just a week it will become the temporary dumping ground as the college-student-kids unload cars full of their dorm room detritus. When buying this house, I’m not sure I could see past pre-school and elementary school to imagine that 3 college kids would be toting their stuff through this room. (Well, really, I’m not sure I could even see past pre-school and elementary school weekdays to imagine a weekend on the other side.) But those weeks and weekends passed, and now the living room awaits the summer returnees…and my schemes for future redesign.
It was a different sort of Mother’s Day this year, the first year of the “empty nest.” Very different from the Vacation Closet year! It was a new adventure to be celebrating via phone calls from all the kids. There was a moment of startling familiarity when one child was on the landline, and one child was on the cell phone, and I had one in each hand/ear and was trying to figure out who would be spoken to immediately, and who could be called back in a minute. It made me laugh, and brought back memories of the moment with two slippery toddlers in the bathtub, when one preschooler runs into the bathroom bleeding and crying, and another child yells from the other room wondering what’s for dinner. Juggling (patient) adults on the phones today was much easier! But I am guessing that as clear as that bathroom memory is for me…I will probably also recall the moment today, leaning on the kitchen counter with two phones, living the “new normal” in this home.
Really, pretty much every nook in every room holds a memory. I love that. And, truly, it is interesting that almost none of these remembered adventures has anything to do with all the things one focuses on while house-hunting. Not the wood floors, or the type of countertops or the windows that tilt in for cleaning. All good things, of course. But what it turns out I love most about our house is that it is where our lives happen. (Well, yeah, as the kids head back here for the summer, I have to admit that I DO really love that this house has lots and lots of bathrooms. I really adore that.) But, still, what I love most is that this is where our lives happen, in ever-evolving ways.
On Facebook: Laurie Simon Goldman, Sibcy Cline Realtors