Day 4: Space

The house has 2500 square feet, plus a sliver that’s my office, in a fraction of the garage.

We are a family of five, so — 500 square feet per person, plus a sliver of a sliver.

Of course, it doesn’t work out that way. Even among relatives, there is unequal distribution.

S. gets the rawest deal. Her bedroom is the size of a generous, but not huge, walk-in closet. Her propensity for choosing social media over straightening up can make it feel half that size. She longs for the bedroom next door, with its bay of windows streaming natural light, its wide wood floor, its view of our quiet street, rather than the neighbor’s wall that she gets to see each morning.

But that bedroom, which once was the master, belongs to E. It seemed like maybe he could be persuaded to give it up when he left for college this fall. He kept asking for a delay though. He wasn’t ready, he wasn’t ready — and now, amid all the stress and upheaval of our COVID lockdown, well, relinquishing it appears out of the question.

L. moved into my office room, behind the kitchen, when he was in middle school. Hence the need to convert part of the garage. The adjacent bathroom was originally imagined as a guest bathroom, but his toothpaste and shaving gear pepper the counter these days.

B and I share the master bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet. B also claims the desk in the family room, and I’m supposed to own that space in the garage. Plus, there’s the kitchen, which we all share, but which is my domain.

Or used to be. Everything’s up for grabs these days. Well, nearly everything.

We all hold onto our bedrooms, for better or for worse. But I’m writing this sitting on the chair in the corner of my bedroom, while the sound of jazz trombone wafts from the garage. We shared the office for the first week — E said he needed a room away from the house, where he could practice at all hours of the day and night without bothering the rest of us, and I had to work. But then I got sick and retreated to my bedroom. Now my office space, so personal some of my best friends are surprised to learn of its existence, is littered with sheet music. The futon couch where the dog usually lies, supervising my writing, is the bench for E’s trombone case.

Meanwhile, the French doors that connect our bedroom to the back patio, which can go months without use, are E’s entryway of choice since he got sick (it allows him to avoid touching the back door that L and his dad use). He just walked by, headed for a nap.

S. long ago claimed the dining room as her study corral. E objects — it means he can’t practice in the adjacent living room without bothering her — but his case for a grievance is weak to non-existent, given the circumstances.

With me too tired to cook dinner, L. has taken over the kitchen. Often, I’m supplying the recipe. But he picks the veggies. He decides when dinner will get made and how it will be served. Any alterations, any special touches, are his, not mine.

I’ve been heartily sick of the kitchen these last few years, after two decades of finding myself standing at its counters nearly every night. I don’t exactly mourn it. But I feel as if, say, my spleen has been removed. Something’s missing, and I can’t say why it makes a difference, but it does.

Today, B. is at work. Urgent care, since it’s Sunday (and yes, they pay him extra for it; that’s why he does it a couple of times a month). This, in a way, is his space at home — absent, but not gone. Just left, or headed home, or on the phone with a story to tell. His story today is about a clinic with empty exam rooms, a waiting room with mostly vacant seats, a grim staff with protective equipment at the ready. Everyone waiting for an onslaught, wondering when it will arrive, and quietly asking themselves if they — as a group, and each one as individuals — will be up to the challenge when it hits.

Compared to this, our space issues are trivial. And yet, sequestered at home as we are, it’s all we’ve got to ponder.

For my part, I’ve gained new appreciation for my bedroom. The pale green rug is soothing. I’m glad I chose the blue-flowered duvet cover last year — the cheery blossoms brighten my mornings. When the wind blows, the trees rustle right outside my window. And of course, these days, I’m treated to a near constant stream of jazz music as I go about my confined day.

This morning, I ordered a small desk from Target, for the corner of this bedroom. It’s cheap enough, if it’s really awful, I can always donate it without regret. But here’s to hoping it’s sturdy. There’s enough sharing of space going on already, and I need to make do.

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