The Living Room and the Back Door
They say you never appreciate something until it is gone. Lives were lost, school, movies, and many other things were lost in the year of Covid-19. But the most significant thing I lost was a room. My daughter could no longer do school in the building created for such activity. It was her senior year of high school. She now needed room for her ‘School’ in our home. We have a small but nice home In Savannah. Our space was limited. But she not only needed a space for her desk and books she was a dancer and needed room to dance. This left only one room in the house with room enough to fulfill this need: our living room. So on a frenzied day in Spring 2020 we rearranged the room into a classroom/dance studio. While it was not a perfect space it was more than adequate for her needs. This would be her last year with us before she went off to college. I was saddened that she would not be face to face with her friends doing those things we all did during our senior year of high school. But health and safety were more important during this pandemic that no one knew when it would end.
The space was hers for sixteen months. She guarded it fiercely. She did not like through traffic. She found it hard enough to be dancing alone in her home without parents traipsing through at any given moment. Any semblance of ‘attending class” was lost if I poked my head in the room to ask ‘one of my million dollar’ questions that occurred to me during the day. She was a teenager transforming into a woman. She was declaring her independence more each day. She was not mine; she was now her own.
The room became the forbidden room for me. I only went in on weekends or at night. But there was basically only her chair and desk as furniture. There was no other furniture to sit on because she needed the floor for her dancing. Even if I wanted to sit there was no space.
Not only did I lose the room I lost the door. The front door opened into the living room. I was now coming in and out the back door. It was the lost of the room and the seeing of our home from literally another perspective that I realized how much I had lost.
This was the room of my first sex with my wife, family Christmases, family meetings to plan chores or adventures, birthday celebrations, reading of books, my meditation, and many of my favorite family activities. But the room was also the place where we invited the world in. I not only lost the room I lost the world. The room was always kept clean for company to come expected or unexpected. We entertained people for Thanksgiving and other future friends for the first time in this room. There was the slash and burn dinner where the stove caught on fire and I sliced my finger at dinner bleeding everywhere. There was also the dinner where I inserted foot into mouth over an ill-timed architectural observation. There were more successful dinners but always a room filled with friends and family.
It was the place of dreams and efforts to change the world. We hosted our bookclub which has met for over twenty years in there. We hosted the small body of people of the Unitarian Universalist Beloved Community there. With that group we planned World Peace Day, held services in between our church buildings, and hosted social times with this group of people. UUBC which for eight glorious years held Peace Festivals, fought for the life of Troy Davis on death row, offered a liberal religious education for children, presented a place for a few radicals to come together was an integral place in that room. It was also the place on an excruciating night over dinner we decided to disband as a church. That night harsh things were said to me justified or not. The last service of our group was held in that very room. It was a good service of affirmation and love with a tinge of sadness and loss.
Some of us took the proceeds left from that meeting as seed money to start Joined In Giving. A small group that meets once a month over dinner to socialize, share a meal, and decide out of two non-profits in our community who we will give $800 to that month. We have learned so much about the good people are doing in our community and have been able to assist and show our appreciation of what they are doing through this one simple act. It was planned there and meets regularly in that room. It has given over $50,000 to the community.
This room was a regular meeting space for a ragtag group of men who came together for over ten years to provide a safe place to discover themselves and find healing.
This room was the place where an attempt to start a group called Savannah Think Tank was started to create new ideas for my beloved city that would make it more whole. We were a black and white female editors, a popular pastor and former Broadway performer, an artist and entrepreneur, and more involved. But that attempt was cut short by the advent of my struggle with cancer. It was too young of an effort to survive on its own and I was unable to live the life I wanted while struggling with Cancer. It became a room where we stood in the darkness of cancer and came through on the other side. The room seemed to hold us together in the midst of cancer.
It seems odd that so much of my life could have taken place in that room. Life was not put on hold but it was rearranged in ways that I did not want or ask for. But it was through the back door that I realized I wanted something of beauty in the back yard. I wanted to see the beautiful and peaceful things of life. A battle hard won over cancer and Covid had left me in need in ways I never realized before. The yearning need for color, life, and beauty. I was transitioning into a new phase of life. So gradually yellow and bright purple has sprouted. A design has developed that offers symmetry and small surprises along the way. It too is a small place. But I sit on a bench in the garden or a chair on the raised back porch and marvel why the small place can slowly speak to something going on inside of me. The rooms up front were filled with activities to change myself and the world and hopefully that will return but the back small garden reminds me in a world full of pain and suffering I have a need to see a little of the quiet beauty that exist. I will never have much by design (a privilege everyone does not have) but most of what I need is found in a small room and a small garden in my backyard.
My daughter will go off to college. I will continue to reenter life. Things will change. Life will go on. I will meet challenges that will sometimes call for rearranging furniture, growing a new garden, continuing to open doors to the outside world, and making room for life in all of its goodness and harshness.