Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Faith & Family Magazine and is reprinted with permission. LMH
Years ago I decided to pay a visit to my brother, who had just moved with his wife and young daughter to a new house. I rang the bell and my sister-in-law answered the door.
“Joe’s upstairs,” she said, “in the closet.”
The closet? I climbed the stairs and followed the sound of turning pages. Sure enough, there was Joe, sitting crossed-legged on the floor of a walk-in closet with “National Review” on his lap and a cup of espresso in his hand. Beside him were a Snickers wrapper and an outdated box calendar with a cartoon on every page.
“Welcome to my space,” he said.
He and his wife had finished unpacking, Joe told me, and were settling in nicely. But my niece was having a bit of trouble adjusting to her new home, and her crankiness was starting to wear on Joe. Besides, Joe was having problems of his own at his workplace.
“I come in here when I’m feeling stressed,” he explained, throwing affectionate glances at the bare metal clothes bar and exposed ceiling bulb. “It’s a great place to unwind.”
This, I thought, is bizarre.
But that was then. Since that long-ago visit to my brother’s “space,” I married, moved to a new apartment, gave birth, moved to a new house, gave birth again, started homeschooling, birthed more babies, homeschooled more kiddies, shed tears, pounds, and brain cells, and gained wisdom, cellulite, and a robust appreciation for the gift of leisure.
Now I’ve come to understand the need for a woman to have a place of her own.
A place where she can read Tolstoy, read comics, or read the Bible; trace her genealogy or trace a picture; pray the Hours, pray with tears; write a love letter, write a novel, or eat ice cream straight from the carton. Or just lie on her back and stare at the ceiling blankly without hearing a little voice cry: “Everybody come here; I think Mommy’s dead!”
A woman’s special place doesn’t have to be attractive. Before I created my present place (see below), I’d scuttle downstairs into the furnace room when the going got rough. It was a dingy spot that smelled like oozing tar, and it contained a furnace that, without warning, would periodically let out a startling clang followed by a thunderous roar. The furnace room was disagreeable enough that family members, especially skittish children, usually stayed clear of it, even when Mom was hiding out there. But I liked it because it was always nice and warm, and besides, it reminded me of my South Bronx childhood home, whose ancient furnace would produce an all-night-long rumble that worked on me like a lullaby.
One’s cozy spot can even be out-of-doors. Although a garden nook would be perfect, a more homely setting would serve just as well. I have a friend who, when she needs to get away, grabs a handful of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and absconds to the back seat of her van, which is parked in a gravel driveway. She pops some praise music into the car’s CD player, delves into the Reese’s, and always comes away both spiritually and physically refreshed. A bonus to her taking haven outside the home is that her kids can’t detect the smell of the chocolate which, as all mothers know, has the attractive force of a Pied Piper call.
The components of her special place are the lady’s choice. My own space centers on a massive wooden desk that sits in the corner of my bedroom. On top of the desk are my laptop, little love notes from my children, two icons, a prism to look through, a monogrammed wine glass for use in emergency situations, and an encouraging email message from a friend that I printed out in 28 point type and framed. The desk drawers hold your usual desk-y stuff, plus a few surprises. (There’s some peanut brittle zipped into the case of my Franklin Planner. Don’t tell my kids.) Hanging above the desk is a “nostalgia board” which displays, among other things, my fourth grade school portrait (sparkly cat’s eye glasses and all), a sketch of Iron Man that I drew in the 1970s, an Art Garfunkel autograph, and a leather peace sign pendant. My preferred way to unwind is to reminisce, so, besides dating me more effectively than Carbon-14, the nostalgia board’s funky stuff can whisk me away from here faster than the, um, Millennium Falcon.
I love my nook. But it took me a while to learn how to enjoy it without guilt. I used to fret about the unmade bed, the untended garden, and the unfinished lessons, even while gulping Tension Tamer tea and whizzing through the Serenity Prayer. No wonder that peace eluded me. The Lord manifested Himself to Elijah, not in the mighty wind or in the earthquake, but in the “still, small voice.” As difficult as it may be in the course of a busy day, I’ve got to pause and dispose myself to receive the refreshment that, like all good things, comes from God.
Copyright 2011 Celeste Behe