December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
I’ve been thinking about this prompt all day, and the thing that keeps coming back to me is “a home.” Of course, I’ve made cookies and pies and dinners (and even a few essays), but the thing I’ve done over the past year that is something (semi)permanent and meaningful has been my home.
To understand the importance of this, you’d have to know a little history. When I moved into a studio apartment in January 2007, it was the first time I’d lived alone for seven years. Before that, I had lived alone — by myself — for a grand total of six months since I’d left home in June 1990. That’s right. In 16-1/2 years, I’d lived alone for six months. And when I moved into the studio, it was weird and uncomfortable and I never really even settled in. It was months before I bought silverware and dishes that weren’t the bottom-end Ikea sort.
In May 2008, I moved into my current one-bedroom apartment. The amount of space (an urban average of 650-700 square feet) felt immense, and for several days I slept in the living room. I’d been in one room for almost 18 months, and the idea of going to bed in a separate space was foreign to me. But before long, I set up in my bedroom and slept through the night. (It would take much longer, though before I turned it into a space that was anything more than a storage room with a bed in the middle.)
Before I dated Jack, I dated an older man (he was a year younger than my mother; 19 years older than I) who had lived in the same apartment for more than 20 years. Seeing the way he collected and displayed things — and turned them into a home — inspired me to begin to do the same. And by the time that man and I had parted ways and I started dating Jack, I’d made a fairly good start at turning my apartment into My Home. For the first time ever, I was able to turn an empty apartment into my favorite place in the entire world (outside, of course, of New York City).
It isn’t something I can describe or catalog, but everyone who walks into my apartment (a) compliments me and (b) thinks I’ve lived here forever. My space reflects who and what I am as well as the things I value (there are books and pieces of art everywhere). I have holiday lights up year-round, a beaded curtain, kissing balls, and a pink coffeemaker (among other things). And the centerpiece of my living room is a wall Jack painted yellow-gold for me… it is something he did for me to make this apartment mine, and I will miss it immensely when I leave; however, I know exactly what color it is, and my plan is to paint a wall this color in every apartment from now on, even if it’s only a wall in a closet.
What I want to make but what I’ve been avoiding is a larger home. I’ve known for some time that I need to move into a two-bedroom (or, ideally, a three-bedroom) apartment. The boys need a space of their own, and I need them to have a space as well (it gets crowded here). But the idea scares me. I don’t like change, much less moving into an apartment that is devoid of memories and experiences. It will be a blank slate, largely unknown and uncharted. And having an apartment with multiple rooms and dedicated spaces and such… well, that’s an adult thing. Despite being 37 years old, I’m not quite sure I’m up to the task.
However, the ingredients necessary for making my current apartment into My Home — self-knowledge, creativity, love, and ingenuity — are the exact things to turn future spaces into My Home as well. It isn’t something I’m particularly looking forward to right now, as making a new home entails taking apart the first one I’ve ever built that meant something.