what's in a place?

For Christmas this year a dear family friend gave me a "journal jar." She was afraid I might think it was a little dorky or something, but boy was she wrong! I love it! I just have to reach in and pull out one of the hundreds of writing prompts. I can use them in my classroom, and had hoped to use them a little more in my own life too. And so I decided to give one a shot. So I reached in and the prompt I pulled out was, "Do you have a favorite place? Tell about it." Here is what I wrote:

I have learned that a favorite place doesn't necessarily evoke excitement, or any emotion too extreme; a favorite place is usually a place where one feels safe. I know I have lived a very blessed life, and my memories are filled with places big and small, ordinary and quite UNordinary. These places have been loud, quiet, brimming with people, or a lonely corner in the woods. But there has always been one place that I have been able to make my own; a place where I have always felt safe. In this particular place I have always expressed my emotions and my creativity. Yes, in my room I have often sang the tune from an old Cinderella video I had when I was a girl: "In my own little corner, in my own little room, I can be whatever I want to be."

My room started a nice, cheery yellow when I was young. My parents did not know the sex of either my sister or me until we were born, thus the room had been painted a color deemed "unisex." This fit my personality for awhile and my Barbies and I would spend hours together in the sunlight that shone brightly off my yellow walls. Hours of "school" passed in that small room above the kitchen; role and lunch counts were taken and teddy bears were read to about the dangers of drugs and the adventures of Mrs. Gigglebelly. Porcelain dolls with brunette ringlets sat smiling on my shelves. At night I would plop on my belly, my Peepers bear in tow, and prop up on my elbows to look out the window at the head of my twin bed. My neighbor, Billy, would always be doing dishes and I would watch her in the orange glow of her kitchen light before rolling over and saying my prayers. I had a rote prayer at this age which started with the tried and true "Now I lay me down to sleep…" I had always said it with Mom and Dad when I was really little and, now that I was becoming a little more in tune with the world around me, I added my own lines at the end: "And keep me safe from fires, tornadoes, murderers, and ax murderers. Amen." I didn't know what an ax murderer was, but it sure didn't sound like something I wanted in my room at night!

As time passed the Barbies were shoved under the bed and the wall was painted a pale purple. As my clothes got bigger, my floor got messier and the constant "keep your room picked up" battle began. I kept my "pet net" up in the corner, not because I still played with the stuffed animals tossed in its bowels, but because I had rigged up sheer drapes that hung from its every corner. These created an escape inside my escape; a room within a room. Ribbon streamers and beads were added, and a pillow to sit on, and a lamp to read by, and in my little den many Babysitters Club books were devoured. On restless nights when I couldn't sleep, I discovered a slight tear in one of the quilt squares on my bedspread. I soon figured out it was large enough to fit a few pieces of paper into and began keeping little notes tucked in its folds.

As a teenager my parents were always very good about letting me "express" myself. Translation: I could put as many holes in and as much tape on the wall as I wanted! The purple walls were soon plastered with my newest collection: "Got Milk" ads. Every inch was filled. My walls, from corner to corner, as well as my entire ceiling, were covered with glossy pages from magazines of various celebrities with milk mustaches. Larry King and Tony Hawk were above my bed, next to a large cow poster, and looked down at me with a white upper lip every night. I never had a tv or phone in my room like many of my hormonal counterparts, but I never really saw much of the need. I still enjoyed reading-- even though this usually meant having to turn on a light since it was a dark den with all the ads-- and I still liked to sit on my bed and dream big dreams. I also started cutting out other slogans and pictures from magazines and these began to cover my dressers. Pictures of friends were strategically placed throughout the space as well, and if one were to walk down the hallway, they would have known which door belonged to me.

I say "belonged to me" lightly though, for I always was well aware that my parents could enter this sanctuary of mine whenever they chose to. However, they respected my space and usually let me be if I hadn't proved too suspicious, rebellious, or otherwise teenagery. This was part of the safety of the space though; I knew they would never allow me past unhealthy boundaries, and would not allow me the privacy in which so many teens crossed them.

My sophomore year the physical location of my room moved about three miles outside of town. I spent hours taking down pictures and unsticking tape and wiping off goo. I wondered if I would ever be able to recapture the essence of that room in our new house. But as I unpacked boxes in my lime green and yellow room, I knew it was mine just as much as the last one. In this room my body grew and changed more, and Grandpa built me a desk and I sat at in front of the window crying over Algebra homework and boys. And it was in this room that I repacked my belongings as an 18 year old and headed off to college, trying to figure out once again how to recreate safety and belonging in a square space.

This time, though, I had to share my space. I had various roommates in college, and all of them tolerated my wacky sense of style and my undulating mood in room arrangements. I often craved a space that was just mine, but learned the balance needed to live with someone else. I took this balance, and my more sophisticated picture frames, and brought them to Kentucky with me the first year I was married. As I put new holes in the wall and hung wedding pictures in our bedroom, I realized that sense of safety I had felt tucked away in my corner with sheer drapes was still there. It looked much different than my purple, teenage room, but it was present.

And a year ago I was patching those holes, moving, and picking out paint color for another bedroom. And in this bedroom, now painted a light and mature gray, I still read and dream big in my bed. I still tuck notes under the pillow case sometimes, not as a secret quilt diary but for my husband to find later. I still laugh and cry in my room. This bedroom also just so happens to be a bedroom I was spanked in when I was a child; a room filled with great, happy memories of old friendships and lost faces; a room just across the street, about 500 yards away, from the yellow room of my childhood.

It is funny how things have a way of coming around full circle and surprising us. It's funny how change is so woven throughout all of our stories. But it is beautiful to have a place, all of your life, where you feel safe and comfortable; a place where you can hum and sing, "I can be whatever I want to be."

1 comment:

Kali said...

I absolutely loved this. And I can attest to each and every one of those spaces you created, I'm happy to say :)

P.S. Can you please come help me create my new special place? It's needing some TLC.