Coming of age when I did, being raised by a 1970s feminist mother who kept a copy of Our Bodies Ourselves on the coffee table in the living room, I was taught early on that a woman needs a space to herself. A room of one's own if possible. Virginia Woolf's feminist ideal.
I was an only child and my room was my safe haven. From green polka-dotted bedspreads, morphing into the pink princess dream, and then being clad in rainbows and unicorns in my pre-adolescent years, and finally settling into a classic blue with beautiful cherry furniture when I turned fifteen, my room reflected my identity. And I spent hours there, listening to music, reading books, writing in my diary, sitting in my bean bag chair, playing with my dollhouse.
When I went away to college, I was startled with how much I resented my roommate's things--the detritus of everyday life. I adored my roommate, loved the late night talks and shared confidences, but having to share a dresser, and a closet, and a refrigerator, were difficult for this only child to handle. I remember when sharing with a college boyfriend my struggles with sharing space his comment, "Geez, Miller, you're going to be hell to be married to some day."
As soon as I graduated from college I got my own apartment, and while I was afraid this would be a lonely thing, I embraced it with a freedom previously unknown. The tea cups in the kitchen were mine, the towels in the bathroom were folded the way I liked them folded, the sheets smelled like the detergent I chose to use, if I wanted to swig Sprite from the two-liter container in the middle of the night I didn't have to worry about anyone else's germs.
When K. and I were married, living in a tiny brick cottage, I had a sun porch of my own, but it offered little privacy, and smelled of cat pee. While I loved the sun streaming in its windows, the books on my bookshelves were quickly fading, and in winter it was unbearably cold. It was with a sense of relief, even as it was tinged with sadness, when I reclaimed that home as my own.
I carried that sense of entitlement to one's own room, that deep need for private space into my marriage with R. and thankfully we had a home big enough that I could have my own room, which quickly became christened as "The Sanctuary." I painted it myself, a soothing blue. The furniture were all heirlooms from my family, the chest of drawers from my grandparents, the mirror which hung in my great-grandparent's home, the dresser which my parents purchased at an antique store before I was born. I adorned my sanctuary with candles, and incense, framed photos of those I loved, and icons of holy women. I spent countless hours in my chair, my feet propped on the ottoman, my prayer shawl draped around my shoulders, a cat on my lap.
Today was a turning point for me, as I packed up my books, and took down my photos in preparation for my sanctuary to become Grayson's nursery. Necessity requires that this room now be passed on to another, and while I celebrate the little one who will sleep embraced by its blue serenity, I mourn my sanctuary. I know that I will change as I become a mother, that I will yield and have to give in ways previously unimagined. But, it doesn't come without a bit of worry. Will I lose part of my identity, as I am losing part of my space? Have I forever forsaken the woman who craves her solitude and space?
This evening R. and I moved my reading chair into our bedroom, next to the window so I can look out over the pine trees in the backyard. Wonder of wonders, the blue upholstery matches with our light green walls quite nicely. R. gave up his top drawer so I can keep my pens and notecards next to my reading chair, and more importantly offered me the safety of our bedroom as private space whenever I need it, allowing it to shift and become more mine than his. I found a shelf upon which to place my candles and photos in an altar of sorts. And there is comfort in knowing that while I have had to sacrifice my room, I have gained a nook. And small spaces have their comforts too.
I'm only beginning to learn what motherhood entails. And I don't want to lose the Christen who seeks solitude in the process. I sense this is only the beginning of the journey.