This morning I woke up with legs across me. It is cold above the covers but I am warm and snuggled against a figure in my bed. But the feet that wiggle beside me are not those of my husband. They are my daughter’s. She is almost three and sleeping in my bed.
This week I took all of the toys and things I trip on during my midnight trips to the bathroom and arranged them in her big girl room, yet still she lies spread sideways across the middle of our king sized domain.
It is not entirely her fault. Since birth, I have enjoyed having her near, perhaps for the convenience of not having to treck to the other end of the house to investigate strange wimpers heard over the monitor.
I breast fed all three of my children. My oldest son, now fifteen, was the one I fed the longest, which lasted six months as a result of my “first time mother” enthusiasm. My oldest daughter, who is eleven, I breast fed for three months. She stayed in my bed until she was five! And this one who lies peacefully across me, I fed for a month, with much effort, as my private time was greatly limited.
The first two were with my former husband who truthfully could have cared less whether we had kids, dogs or wild ponies lying between us. But I am forty-two now, and this is doing absolutely nothing for my love life, which happens to be in full swing with my husband of almost four years.
So I ponder the question, in order to entice my daughter, “What is it that makes a child love their room?”
I visited my own childhood room this weekend. My mom has lived in the same home since birth. The paint changes frequently, but home is the same, for her and for me as I return.
She has re-designed my room, removed the lime green shag of the seventies and placed the contents of my old high school bulletin board that covered one full wall in my room neatly into a hat box or two.
But the closets I played in remain exactly the same. The “secret attic corridor” to my sister’s room that was a haven for hide and seek is filled with my old records, every piece of fabric I have had in a room since college, and boxes of old photos. Even clay creations made at girl scout camp are here.
My office, oh, the office, is exactly as I left it. A cedar closet was where I put a file cabinet and a door across the top to create an official desk. In the drawers I found alphabetized folders of mailers from the center tear-out from another Southern magazine I would write to as a child to request travel information. I loved getting the mail and tearing in to see flyers and letters addressed to me begging me to visit places like Gatlinburg, Rock City or the Grand Old Opry, if only I could drive.
This place was a shrine, with trophies and old love letters, diaries, and my mom had even left old books that belonged to my dad when he taught English, before he left us. She must have realized how much this place meant to me. It is almost as I left it, except that on the floor are baskets and boxes of toys, legos and shiny cars for my children and my sister’s four that are under the age of 9.
The bedroom seemed bigger then. As I sat on the floor, surrounded by garbage bags of things that I was finally able to let go of, I realized just how rare it was for me to be able to actually step back in time.
It was even rarer, that I could pick up the phone and dial the exact same number that I dialed when I was eleven, over thirty years ago to reach my best friend’s grandmother, my aunt, the mom of my best friend who learned to ride a bike with me or even my old babysitter, who actually isn’t old, but only ten years older than me!
With the average person moving every …years, most people can not re-visit their old home, not to mention, walk in and have it just as it was. We all want to re-visit our past, if not for nostalgia, as a way to be able to move past something we’ve tucked away in the corners of our minds.
Even old photographs, boxes of treasures, or old letters can help satisfy this yearning we all have as human beings. There is something in us that searches for a sense of place. And when we dig deep within our souls, we find that every thread of our being begins to be woven when we are young.
So yesterday when I returned home, I vowed to make more effort, for myself, as well as for my daughter, to help make her room a place that is “hers”. We arranged doll furniture, set up a corner for her little kitchen, laid out some puzzles and fluffed her “princess” bed.
Yet still, this morning I woke up to a child who wandered my direction in the night. For now I have to say, I enjoy her snuggles, for the two older ones are almost past the point of snuggling. And I hope that someday she will either visit or remember her room as a place that she cherished, a place that nurtured her creativity, that gave her a place to rest her body, a place to feed her spirit, and most of all, a place that nurtured her soul.
Allison Puccetti Adams @2008