More than once, in life and on these pages, I have defensively declared that my now mostly New York-based son’s room is safe and sound and at no risk of becoming anything other than where he lays his weary, architecture-studying head when he comes home. Then, one day in late October, the winds of change began to blow.
Change is inevitable. I am the house-lovingest of house-loving enthusiasts, and one of the things I know is that needs change. Long ago my navy blue office gave way to pale blue and cream harlequin diamonds for my first nursery. The jadeite green walls with the oversized hand-painted buttons met the fate of two coats of Kilz when the toddler’s room became home to a teenager.
Many of my homes’ initial color choices and purposes made way for the thing that came next. And while each transition put me in a bit of a twist, I regret none of them. I already feel the same about painting over the commercial-looking, soul-sucking flat, pale gray (that my oldest had chosen in what I can only believe was an act of rebellion, because—seriously—who would ever want his room to be that color?) to a rich mossy green with just enough black to make it a color that cannot be named.
I did not, I swear, make my oldest son homeless. What’s happened is that what was mostly his room, but sometimes the television room, is now the television room that is sometimes his room. Once he started his second year of college, the reality of one of the most accessible rooms in the house being poorly used had turned to folly. Even someone as sentimental as I could no longer justify such a misuse of space.
It’s not as if he has to book a spot on Airbnb. All the elements of his room are still there: a bed (though smaller because the double gave way to a twin that serves as daybed/sofa), his dressers (working still as media stand), shelves (to hold more of my books—heaven—and his high school memorabilia) and a pair of chairs (for us to sit and for him to pile things upon).
I’ll admit, it works slightly better for us who are here year-round than for he who wanders in and out a few weeks at a time. (Okay, yes, I’ll concede, summer. Still, it’s a vacation.)
The plan had been tumbling round in my head for a while, but it came as a surprise to my younger boys. As I began to shift and sort I saw a small smile begin to curve at the edges of my middle son’s mouth. Pausing, chair on hip, I said firmly, “No.”
“No, what?” he answered, his eyes widening innocently.
“No, you may not text your brother and tell him.” He blinked innocently. “I mean it,” I reiterated. His shoulders dropped.
“All right,” he begrudgingly agreed.
As of this writing I haven’t told him yet. I will. When? Hmmm…Don’t you just love the drive home from the airport? It’s such a lovely opportunity to—catch up.
Life Goes On
I don’t think I’ve ever lived in a home longer than three years before something needed to change. It’s better to see a house as constantly reinvented. You are always changing. Your home should change with you.
My first apartment without a roommate was in a Spanish-style building on the Plaza. It had a small living room, a smaller bedroom and a kitchen so tiny there was no room for too many cooks spoiling any broth. (Also, no broth, mostly popcorn.) I moved in with a bed, a chair and a sofa, but out with a U-Haul full of chintz and pottery. The first stage is a getting-to-know yourself stage. Once you get it figured out, you’ll probably move on.
Gaining and Losing Extras
Pets, children, parents, siblings and down-and-out friends may come and go. It’s rare that any are permanent residents and the addition and subtraction will help you see your home in a new way. Where it had been settled, it may become undeniably and surprisingly messy. The reality is, we are always in transition, though it may be so incremental we are unaware of it. There is no in-between; there is only the all of it.
We do, eventually—and sometimes serially—go two-by-two. Living with someone else requires a careful balance. If you’re in love, it’s equal parts it-doesn’t-really-matter and if-this-person-understood-me-we-wouldn’t-be-discussing it. In a way, this stage goes further to help you define who you are. What you must keep and what you are willing to release are telling. If the rug is non-negotiable, you may realize you’re no longer talking about the rug.
Alone Again, Naturally
Whether unexpectedly or with great relief, we may find ourselves happily habitating without the co-. Hopefully, we will do this with some grace and select the very best of the things that we have collected and drug along from the beginning. Some of it—most of it—will be worn around the edges, chipped and threadbare. The good things in life will take the wear right along with us and together we will develop a rich patina.