"To contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books...and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream" so that "one sees more intensely afterwards," you need a room of your own, says Virginia Woolf in her gem of a book, A Room of One's Own. Then, "the world seems bared of its covering and [you will have] an intenser life."
Ah, a room of my own--a longing, a hope, a dream--now come true in my son Grant's garage.
When our rental lease was up, Grant attempted to buy the home from the landlord, who had promised to sell it to Grant. It had four bedrooms and a big backyard, exactly what we needed to provide a home for a happy, married couple, their baby, Grant's mother (me), Grant's demented father, two dogs, and two cats. However, the landlord refused to sell when the time came, so Grant went on a hunt for a home to buy, so as not to be at the mercy of the whims of another landlord. He found a fixer-upper, which he and Leanne believed would work, and they bought it. Alas, the house was a three bedroom house. What were we to do? Where were we all to sleep?
After walking around and around the house, I suggested that I sleep in the attached garage, which had a door opening into it from the family room. It was really the only possible room for me in the house. Fortunately, though not insulated (which matters little to me, as I am always hot, so our mildly cool winters won't bother me), the garage is sheet-rocked. Grant set about turning the garage into my bedroom. He painted the walls a lovely turquoise and bought a new garage door to replace the old, buckling, drafty one. He bought sliding windows for light and air to replace the single pane glass; he bought a door with a window for light to replace the solid, side door with holes in it; he bought carpet to cover the concrete floor; and he put fine screens over the vents to reduce the visits of spiders. Grant and Gavin installed the windows and new door, and Gavin bought and installed overhead track lighting to light the room for me.
After the room was painted and carpeted, I put up fourteen bookcases and filled them with books. My bed and nightstands are in an alcove I created with some of my bookcases, so I get to sleep surrounded by books, which is a most comforting way to sleep. My two dressers, file cabinet, and metal closet organizer are strategically placed to make the garage look like a bedroom. My rocking chair is near the bed for rocking Gracie, and the kitty litter is in the corner by the outside door. There is no way to hide the questionable attractiveness of the old furnace and new water heater, but I turned that section of the garage into another alcove that discreetly houses my camp toilet for easy, middle-of-the-night peeing.
Now, instead of a garage, you see a cozy bedroom, where our cat Oreo and dog Mollie nap on my bed or doze on the carpet in the patch of sunlight made from the window of the outside door. Books beckon from every wall, and my room emanates an air of tranquility and the heart-warming truth that I belong, that I am home; for, truly, a home, SO much more than merely a room to sleep in, is what Grant and Leanne are giving me in this garage room in their home.
But my garage bedroom is more than being part of a home; it is the room that Virginia Woolf says that we need--a room of my own. A room for me to read, to write, to think; a room to rejoice in or cry about life's "little pictures," while simultaneously pondering life's "big picture;" a room to escape from the abyss of dementia as well as the cries of a newborn baby to the delights of poetry, the insights of plays, and the adventures of a good novel. And it is a room for me to experience the cognitive dissonance of almost crushing despair when life gets to be too much, while, at the same time, being felicitously, thankfully, blissfully consumed by an unquenchable, lifelong curiosity that makes me want to live forever.
Virginia Woolf says we need to "escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings, not always in their relation to each other, but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees, or whatever it may be in themselves...for no human being should shut out the view; if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone, and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come...to live and write...poetry," and, I think Virginia Woolf would agree, bring into being any and all creative expressions.
So, now, at long last, I have a room of my own. In the past, whenever I contemplated a room of my own, I usually visualized a cabin in a wood or a cottage by a shore--very romantic notions, to be sure. But in the real world, a room of one's own is lovely wherever you have it. Mine happens to be, unexpectedly, in a garage, and I am most grateful.
Kate, aka Kathy, aka Kathleen