It was my sanctuary. The walls were paneled in light oak, rough to the touch, and straight out of the 1970s. The floor was a darker hardwood, covered in part by a cream fringe throw rug that only partially hid the green paint stain on the floor. The bookshelves were bursting with novels, biographies and plays - some that had been read, and others I'd probably never get to - with my dictionary and thesaurus within easy reach.
An oak laminate desk filled one wall. Chosen in part for its cost and in part for its size, it was home to my computer, printer and files. While the long file cabinet across the room held paid bills, insurance information and other important paperwork, the file drawer in the desk held dreams - works in progress and idea folders - along with a pile of rejection letters I'd been unable to throw away. Despite their message, the letters were part of the dream because they offered proof that I really was a writer, despite the fact I hadn't set aside regular writing time since I'd had my daughter.
The room was tacky, but cozy, and filled with items I treasured, still photos of shows I'd performed in and family I cherished. While my office lacked the pulled-together style that filled the pages of decorating magazines, something magical happened in there every time I sat down to write.
As my daughter grew, and toys began taking over the living room, I realized it was time to relinquish my sanctuary. The desk was relegated to the basement, and a new wall-to-wall carpet not only hid the green paint stain, but created a soft, warm place for my daughter to play. Gradually, my books were replaced by her books, my photos put aside as her artwork graced the walls. Eventually, the photos traveled to the basement as my time at the theatre was replaced by playtime and storytime, then chauffeur duties and time on the bleachers at basketball games.
In time, we enclosed a porch to create a new office, one shared by the whole family. Much smaller than the playroom, it is frequently a mess, the place where all the papers in the house come to die. My collection of books has been downsized, my dictionary, thesaurus and files relocated, and I often work in there, among the piles. Many of them, I must admit, are of my own creation. But just as often, I work in other places, and even in the car, usually while I am waiting for my daughter.
But the beauty of dreams is that they don't need a home. And while my theatre dreams are on hiatus and my writing dreams are squeezed into the nooks and crannies of my life, my most important dream is being realized in every other room of my house, with my family, every day. Sometimes these day-to-day dreams absorb me (or frustrate me) and creative pursuits take a back seat. But when I look at the big picture, I think that sounds about right, because after all, family makes a better sanctuary than a room. And a room without a family is just a room.