When my daughter was born, she slept behind a curtain in an alcove in my husband’s painting studio. We built my son, who was 10 then, a room of his own with a sliding door. My husband and I sleep in a fold-down bed in a tiny space that doubles as my office; when the bed is down, I can’t reach my desk.
After my son went off to college, my daughter moved into his room. I continued to long for a place of my own where I could get away from everyone and think my own thoughts. I told my family that when my daughter moved out, that room would become mine: I dibbed it.
We let her keep it while she was in college, and after college she lived at home off and on for a while. But a few months ago, she found an apartment with a friend and took her stuff with her.
I had big dreams for my new room. I would finish the novel I began before my kids were born. I would move my books in and turn it into a personal reading library. I would use it as a yoga studio. I would set up my sewing machine. In the end, I’ve left it empty, though I sit in it for a few minutes every day. All their things may be gone, but my children continue to inhabit the space. The ghosts of their pasts linger. That room changed my kids. They entered it as children, and when they left they were adults. This is where they led their secret adolescent lives, learned to get away from my husband and me, did things they wanted to keep from us, found their freedom and their true selves. Now that my children have grown and gone and I finally have time and space to think my own thoughts, I find that I think mostly of them and the curious alchemy that took place in that room.