About six months ago, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s missive that a room of one’s own was as important to a woman’s writing career as a pad and paper, I decided to clear out our laundry room and create a studio/office. At the time, I was drawing and even painting as well as writing, and, after a weekend of intense re-arranging, managed to carve out a bit of space among the drying racks and guest beds that get used 3 times a year. I think I used the room for the purpose of writing and drawing exactly 3 times.
It should have been a hum dinger of a studio/office – the sliding glass doors look out on to our yard which is surrounded by mountains and forests – but for some reason I still felt the pull of our inherited round kitchen table. I spend most of my workday there – it’s sunny and, when warmed by the wood cookstove, cozy. However, while the kitchen table makes for a fantastic office, letting me stir dinner while I type, it was not so great for writing or drawing. The activity around our kitchen table inspires most of what I write, but working at it requires finding an hour when it is not in use as an office or family community center.
Then, on my quest for more time (a key creativity ingredient Virginia, being single and childless, failed to mention), I stumbled into a room I had dismissed and forgotten. Windowless and situated at the back of our house just behind the wood stove, sits a tiny room that was originally designed to be a photography studio. Still used occasionally by the Big Guy when he’s at the computer, it’s been mostly a receptacle for crap being moved from the living room when we have guests. It gets cleaned exactly when we have overnight guests who might actually see it with the door open. Fortunately, one of those cleanings coincided with my pre-New Year’s resolution to try a morning writing regimen, and I was able to find my way from the door to my old-fashioned pull-down desk. I’ve been using it almost every morning since.
Over the weekend I decided to pull the trigger and finish making it my own. Knowing that the Big Guy will be moving his desk to his workshop soon, I planted my flag by doing the unthinkable – I cleaned on a weekend with no company (just this room, mind you. I haven’t gone completely nuts). Papers were filed, cords were coiled and organized. Pictures of the boys were tacked up, along with a poster I did for a production of ‘You Can’t Take it With You’ at Hubbard Hall, a local community theatre in Cambridge, NY. Then, with the help of the big guy, I brought down a tacky blue arm chair for Katy, my canine companion and took a picture (it won’t be this clean again for quite some time).
I think most parents will understand the sentiment that, in a family, there are very few things that belong solely to oneself. Your time is definitely not your own. For your kids, your possessions are curiosities. If you’re a mom, even your body is often not your own. Even long after they’ve been weaned, kids seem to have an innate sense that Mom and Dad belong to them – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s almost dawn now, and I’m tapping away in the new and improved Momcave with Katy sitting behind me in her new chair. I am keenly aware of irony that someone who’s carried a mental cave around for years has carved out a physical one. But, while the silence and solitude and even the dark are luxurious, I am equally aware that, against the backdrop privacy and time, the people who inspire most of my life – on and off the page – are truly illuminated.