Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Cupboard of My Own

I had a "discussion" with my husband the other night over my need to have a room to call my own. No, I don't mean in the Virginia Woolf sense. I'm not looking for a space where I can sit and lock out the world and create paragraphs and stanzas that will set the masses a-swooning. I just mean a space where I make all the decisions--where I decide the color of paint on the walls, the kind of furniture to tuck into the corner, the books to arrange on the shelves, the hangings on the wall. And then I don't want anyone touching anything or making complaints or suggestions or rearranging or saying, "Hmm.... I was thinking maybe . . ." No. I just want something that's mine all mine all mine.

The "problem" is that this isn't my house. It's our house. And I have a husband who has opinions--often very strong ones. And I can't say, "Well, that's just too bad. Just close your eyes when you come in here from now on."

I was telling my mother about this, and she said she completely understood. And she also understood how it's an "and never the twain shall meet" sort of situation.

When my oldest son was little, he once asked me, "Why is everything in Grandpa's house brown?" I looked around and realized he was right. My parents' house was decorated in shades of brown thanks to my father's collection of antiques--most of which my mother gave away or sold after he died. It wasn't that she was trying to erase all memories of him. It was that those had been his things, his idea of home decorations. Hers? The delicate little cups and saucers she'd accumulated from various antique shows over the years. Only you didn't see those cups and saucers because the butter molds and trenchers and hog scrapers overshadowed them. Mom knows what it's like to have one spouse fill the house while the other sits by and shrugs and says, "Fine, whatever."

"That's what my purse has always been to me," Mom said.

And I finally got it.

When I was a kid, my mom would go ballistic on any of us kids who dared open her purse for so much as a mint. "That's mine," she would growl.

Just last week, I did the same to one of my kids. "I just wanted to see if you have any mints," he said. "Then ask me," I told him. "That purse is mine."

I also have this cupboard. I've told all of my kids there is no reason ever why they should feel the need to open it.

And it's mine all mine all mine. I have my Jolly Ranchers on the top shelf. (I hardly ever eat them, but when I want one, I want one right at that very moment.) I have my candied ginger on the middle shelf--two containers, in fact. I have a few work folders (more organized that it may look to you). I have my index cards, my index file, Christmas receipts from last year, my mini Boggle game, my incense sticks, school calendars.

Okay, so it's not a room of my own. But I do own what's in there . . . just like my purse. And as long as I'm sharing a house with someone--five someones, and I'm grateful for every one of them and wouldn't trade a mansion of my own for the absence of any of them--a cupboard and a purse will do just fine.

Do you have a space of your own? If not, how do you manage without one? If so, what is that space?


Val said...

Hmmm. I hear you. I've been asking for just a few inches of space on the bookshelves to put my current library books, but they keep getting crowded out. A friend who's a decorator, was at our house recently and asked what in the living room was most precious to me. My response? Ummmm. Nothing. All the stuff in here is precious to my husband. I happen to like most of it, but it is not mine.

What is mine? the pile of papers on the desk that I have to deal with. I sometimes leave papers in sorted stacks on the table downstairs and it drives him crazy that I leave them there, and it drives me crazy that he stacks them all together and puts them on the stairs. Then they end up on the mess of papers on the desk (if I get so far as to take them up), all mixed together with the other papers I have to deal with. I guess my space for pottery in the studio is mine, but sometimes he decides to organize and re-arrange that and make suggestions, etc. You've helped me realize why I get so defensive when that happens.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

I love this post!

I don't have a space to call my own, either. I think women -- mothers! -- are basically creatures of sacrifice. I would love to have a niche where I could sit and write and be surrounded by things I love. Instead, I usually have to shove video games, toys, and dogs out of the way before I can even find a place to sit down with my laptop.

My husband and my stepson do their "gaming" in the front room. They used to have a computer chair that sat literally in the middle of the living room, right in front of the television. I hated it. (Who wants a computer chair in the middle of their living room? But when I would complain about it, my husband would say, "Who wants a train table in the middle of their living room either...?")

When the computer chair finally broke, I was overjoyed -- until my husband pulled the recliner to the middle of the room, square in front of the television. It looks ridiculous. I'm sitting in front of it right now, in fact. But if I move it back, I'll find it in the middle of the floor again before long.

I love the purse story, by the way. :-)

Christina said...

Just imagine if your husband had been raised by a professor of interior design. *sigh* Talk about strong opinions. Each time we move, I dream about a little corner I could call my own. It hasn’t happened yet. Still, a house that’s mine and mine alone wouldn’t make me happy either. I love your story about the purse—I had a very similar experience with Megan last week. I opened my purse to find that some of my credit cards had been rearranged. I immediately started questioning the kids “WHO has been in my purse?!” The conversation ended with me saying , “Never, ever, EVER touch my purse. EVER. NEVER.” They were all shocked since generally, I’m a pretty mild-mannered mom. They learned that touching the purse is crossing a line that makes mom turn ugly. Now, I’m sitting here wondering if I can find a cupboard in my house that’s not occupied. Great post.

Bobbie said...

Brigid, I'd go nuts with a big chair in the middle of the living room! We definitely have furniture I've begged him for years to take to the curb though. I think it's part of his pack-rat mentality to keep it just in case we may need it some day. I had this one stuffed animal that I took to the trash five or six times before the garbage man finally got to it before Ron did!

Christina, Ron's mom was a home economics major . . . not quite the same as interior design, but it took him a number of years before he stopped saying, "Curtains? Bedspread? Can't you just make them?" I find that as my kids get bigger and take up more space--both in size and volume--I need my own bit of elbow room more than ever. Looking forward to seeing you guys, by the way!

Bobbie said...

Val, I feel much better knowing I'm not the only wife who gets defensive over suggestions about what to do with my things. I know I have more pieces of me around the house than Ron does (quite a few of my dad's antiques and books), and more than he probably likes. Still, I often feel my hands are tied when it comes to making changes. I'm trying not to express that as a complaint anymore, but rather as a comment on how things are.

Susan said...

I have a little, hovel of a room down in the basement. I store clothes that are too big for A and L in there, plus my fabric. Oh, how I love my fabric. I yell at the kids if they ever go in there. There is absolutely no reason, at all, for them to ever enter. I also hide Christmas presents in there, another reason why they shouldn't go in. It's probably about 5ft by 10 ft, and it's usually all mine. The rest of the house, all three stories, is completely over run by the kids.