Growing up I’d spend a lot of time at my cousin’s house. We were the same age although she was the youngest of 6 and most of her siblings were grown and gone from the house while I was sandwiched into the middle of the 4 children in our house.
My aunt’s house was quiet. It was soothing to me. Sometimes I’m unsure whether it was being with my cousin that was the draw or whether it was more being at her house. I loved her house. It was a smallish, ranch style home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, livingroom, diningroom and familyroom. The flow of the house was meandering and mystifying while the style was modern (well, 1970’s style modern, that is) and clean. What struck me the most though was the formal livingroom.
There was an odd reverence for the room. All of the furniture was white. White couches, white tables, white carpet. With it’s picture window overlooking the peaceful yard it had the best “view” in the whole place, hands down. It may as well have been behind glass because NO ONE entered the room. Even during large family gatherings NO ONE went into the room. I thought it was amazing and confusing. WHY would anyone want an entire room that was untouched? I puzzled this for years as a child. I wanted to be in that room SO badly. I wanted to sit on that couch and stare out the window but I never did that. The unspoken sacredness of the formal diningroom was an invisible fence and I was a rule follower. I think I mourned the loss of that room because I remember vowing that I would never have a room in my house that no one could enter.
Today as I sit in my own livingroom with a picture window that looks out over our yard and I watch the bluebirds play on my porch I am reminded of that vow. Toys scattered on the floor in front of me, children screaming and running through, furniture sticky with jam and god knows what. I am suddenly struck with great love for my aunt…and great envy. I envy her room. Damn it, I want that room. I want that sacredness. I hear myself using that mom phrase “Why can’t I have anything NICE in this house??” as my children beat up my room.
In my quest to be the laid back, bohemian dictator parent I find more and more that I yearn for the quiet, white room at my aunt’s house and I understand now her thinking. I understand too why I wanted to be in there so much. My house growing up was loud, crowded, not dirty but not immaculate like the white room. We had no dedicated sacred space in our house. I don’t think that it even occurred to us, we were so emotionally strung out at that time, to create that space.
My aunt, for whatever reason, maybe it was cultural, maybe it was selfish, maybe it was accidental…she created a sacred place in their home and I was drawn to it. I understand it now. I wish I had understood it then.
I wonder how it would have consoled me? I wonder if it would have instilled in me a better sense of that sacredness as I set up my own home.
I wonder now if it’s too late. I hope not.