Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Open or Closed?

 When my daughter first left for college, we kept her bedroom door closed. As parents of an only child, we — or I, anyway—found it too difficult to walk past the room I knew she wouldn’t be sleeping in any time soon and the closed door made that inevitable task easier. Besides, that door had been kept closed for privacy reasons throughout her adolescence, so closing it felt right. Normal.

I’m not sure exactly when we started leaving the bedroom door open, but I seem to recall that it had something to do with keeping both bedrooms in our very small second floor adequately heated or cooled.

Lately, though, I’ve been considering a closed-door policy again, albeit for entirely different reasons. Taking in the sight of the unmade bed (to remind me to change the sheets before her next visit) and partially completed projects (to remind me to get back to those tasks) leaves me cringing at the untidiness on a daily basis as I mentally highlight two more things on my to-do list.

Except for its current state of disarray, the room doesn’t look very different from the way it did when I wrote the post below a year and a half ago. My husband and I have staked our claim to some of the closet space, and our daughter has taken a few more things to her apartment but, overall, little has changed, not because we’re hanging on to the past, but because no one has felt the need to use the space in a different way.

As with life, I suspect the changes will be gradual. A few possessions or even an old piece of furniture might move to a new apartment. 

But, until then, all the storage space is fair game.

My daughter has embarked on her first real world journey. She accepted a job, she found an apartment, and she has moved all of her essentials into the apartment. She’s nesting, which is fun for both of us.

Her bedroom at home, just across the hall from ours, is still full of stuff.  In fact, I think there might be at least as much stuff in her bedroom as there is in her apartment.

I’m not entirely sad about this. In fact, yesterday, I went in and moved some things around to fill up some of the empty spaces created by the furniture she took with her. Last week, I put her college comforter on the bed. Small steps towards taking the room into its next incarnation, whatever that will be.

Oh, who am I kidding? It will always be her room. It may look different - in fact, I hope it does because right now, it’s a testimony to everything she has outgrown. It’s a weird Never Never Land sheltering possessions only she can decide the fate of.

I keep thinking back to my own childhood bedroom and wondering if it lived in this stage for a while. I don’t remember having this much stuff. But we moved several times during my childhood and adolescence, no doubt culling and downsizing each time.

But my daughter has had the same bedroom since we brought her home from the hospital. In fact, when she was in elementary school, she got an addition because her room is just above the mud room we added on downstairs. 

Twice as much room to accumulate stuff.

In her defense, she has downsized dramatically over time. In fact, that’s what concerns me. I’m afraid that much of what is still in her room isn’t going anywhere.

Right now, I’m OK with that. As long as there are traces of her in the room, the move my mind knows is permanent, my heart doesn’t have to accept.

I’m not in denial, nor am I unhappy. Just baby-stepping my way into the inevitable. The pandemic gave us two bonus years of having her home -- which I loved -- but it was never meant to be permanent. We didn’t raise her to stay here -- in this house with us -- her whole life. 

But my heart is slow to catch up with my head. And so this room in limbo gives my heart time. Time to adjust. Time to rearrange. Time to, together with her, decide what’s part of her childhood and what’s part of the person she is now.

So, I’ll keep puttering away. Vacuuming this and dusting that, encouraging her to sort through the things she left behind when she comes home to visit. My goal right now is to restore some sense of order while still reflecting its inhabitant, regardless of the purpose it serves when she’s not here.

What that purpose will be is still to be determined, though I can't yet imagine a time that it won't be Leah's room, no matter where she lives. 

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