I was never the child who had to be told to clean her room, I prefer neatness and organization, a false sense of control deeply ingrained. I remember at the beginning of each season rearranging my bedroom, pushing my bed against the window, moving my dresser closer to the closet, the new space always feeling much better, wondering why I had waited so long. I loved the change, the fresh outlook even as I used the same pieces, pretending to have a window seat as I piled blankets atop my cedar chest to create a cozy area for reading. The sudden cool air, school supply shopping and apple picking have all brought on the old tickle, the need to move furniture around, to freshen up the rooms and alter our seating arrangements. More rooms to play with, heavier furniture to push, I still search for the right combination, looking for control but noticing evermore the empty areas of my life. We have too many rooms, to many chairs and tables, too many beds. I notice what is missing, what once was, forget past layouts and remember who once laid in.
This bedroom, now the toy room, was my daughter’s. The walls have a stucco finish, always a problem as we rearranged her bedroom and sought to avoid putting her bed anywhere she might inadvertently scratch her arms as she moved through the night. A huge window that looks over the backyard and brings in beautiful light was often another obstacle. At one point her room was painted with clouds in a blue sky, a warning of her desire to fly away that I didn’t recognize. Later this room became Mama’s when she joined us, multiple times, a full apartment where she ate and hid and studied and grew into her own. Now it contains the playthings of her child, games and trucks and costumes, rocks and stuffed animals and spy gear. The room where identifies grow continues.
Across the hall was my son’s, maybe containing the most transformations. Originally a little boy’s room, then walls covered in quotes to encourage him as he began playing football, later as his substance abuse took over, the door was removed, privacy denied. After one stint in rehab, Stella and I decided to create a more grown up room, a mini apartment. Outfitted with a dorm fridge, a tv and stand for his gaming devices and paraphernalia, we sought to bring him comfort and usher him into responsibility. We gave him isolation instead, a place for his first suicide attempt. Years later, after a full sweep of the room to find hidden pills, we painted and purged and this became the nursery, my Plum’s room. Decorated still with the colorful giraffes and monkeys wearing hats alongside his own posters of Minecraft and Pokemon, this space daily brings healing of old memories as I watch this sweet child drift off to sleep, as I see him clumsily clutch his blankie and wander out in the morning. I pray often that the demons that haunted my son leave my grandson alone in here.
The spaces can be recreated into whatever we need, whatever we want. The front room has been the playroom, my office has been a bedroom. This home carries memories of children come and gone and come again, bringing friends and new loves and leaving children behind as they continue on their journey. I move the furniture and try not to count the extra chairs. The tables could tell of weekly parties and dinners for Stella’s friends and my nephew’s roommates as they touched base here during college years. The entry way could tell of police visits when our son was taken away, our desperate cries for help. I have been avoiding the front porch this summer, a place my Arrow and I sat long and talked after he came home from prison, my real son with no substances clouding his judgement, a man full of humility and gratitude. The house has too much furniture during this season, not enough bodies. Yet I wonder at what the next season will bring. We have opened our home more times than I can remember to families in need, to teens who are lost, to those who are traveling thorough. Just as surely as I move this table over there and push that couch by the window, I know I have 5 grandchildren who will someday come to play and read all of these books just waiting on the shelves for them. I can control where the lamps go but not the children. The space is ready, it is freshened. This time of preparation is surely leading to big dinners and searches for more blankets, counting pillows and bringing in chairs from the garage.
I know that my Stella remembers hours of silly talks as I lay in bed, when she would wander into my room with dinosaur hand puppets and taunt me over my door until I agreed to delay sleep and listen as she chatted just a bit longer. I know my Arrow remembers the welcome he received as he returned home with nothing, to a full fridge and closet, to a phone and the saved boxes of letters and pictures, all reminders of where he had been and who had supported him through it. I know that just as I seasonally move all these pieces, God is move us as well, preparing our hearts for the next banquet. I take comfort in flow, in the tugging on my soul to make ready. As I listen to that urge, I know God is telling me to be obedient, stay faithful to this home, to creating hospitality. One day I will entertain my angels again.