empty room, full heart
this is my little boy’s room. only it’s not his anymore. not officially. not where he plops his head at night, and tumbles into sleep.
he’s moved three steps down and around the bend.
everything at our house shifted this week.
one boy’s heart was broken, his summer days of soccer hollowed, left to wonder — as his friends, all his friends it seems, dash off to practice twice a day — why he couldn’t have grown just another six inches, maybe even 12. or more, if we were being greedy, really greedy. a goalie needs every inch he can get. our goalie has only 63. the other goalies have 77 and 75. the arithmetic of soccer is harsh, makes no allowances for size of heart.
another boy moved out, not too far away, 13.21 miles as the crow flies, to his first grown-up apartment. and the night we dropped him off, said goodbye, the little one’s tears soaked the t-shirt of the one who for the past year — for as far back as he can remember, really — has been his bumper pad and protector from all life’s knocks.
monday morning, while the older one drove his first load off to his apartment, the little one and i drove to the sterile pen where numbers are called, papers are signed, tests taken, and permits issued. we drive at night now, he and i, taking to the broadest swath of uninhabited parking lot we can find.
by wednesday, i was scrubbing, dusting, clearing out the last few bits from drawers. i tend to clean like crazy when my heart is upside down. i hauled this and that down from the attic. shoved a few things up for storing. boy no. 2 moved into what had been the long-time chamber of boy no. 1, a fellow more than likely never coming back, except for a night here or there, a stretch of nights if we’re so blessed.
and while we made a room for a boy who’ll find his way through the halls of a new high school, i made a room that’s something of a relic of the boyhoods i so loved. the ones where books were tucked in corners, slid from shelves, pages turned. the boyhoods populated by wooden blocks and trains. now, a little chair sits empty. the alphabet rug, the one i once bought for a nursery, it’s off at the cleaners and the rug repair shop. i seem to be preserving a chapter of our lives, pressing it onto the pages of my heart. a little part of me, perhaps, is hoping that some day a new crop of little people will climb the stairs, turn the corner and see the wall of books, and the bins of blocks and puppets. but mostly, i think, i’m making a room for me, the mama who will never ever forget.
a room where when i walk in i hear the echoes of boys from long and not so long ago. where i pull any book off the shelf and turn a page, and suddenly i can picture the little hands and the voices who once begged for me to read that page over and over. and over.
the rooms in a house are like that, when they’re no longer used. one by one, most houses surrender rooms to time. a room once strewn wall-to-wall with elaborate block constructions becomes a room with sweaty socks and inside-out jerseys. years go by when you hardly see the floor. and then, there comes a dawn when the first beams of sunlight fall across hardwood slats that all but glow, so exposed they are, and not a hand puppet nor a book is out of place. when what you find in the morning is exactly as you left it at noon the day before.
but rooms hold memory, hold the rhythm of a heart that will not fade.
as certainly as the wooden soldier stands guard on the window ledge, as welcoming as the old bear now slumped against the wall, that room will harbor me. will wrap me in its particular embrace. will be my tucked-away respite at the top of the stairs.
for the days when i need retreat. for the days when all i want is to step back in time, to remember how it was and how we got here. for the days when nothing soothes my soul so much as the far-off whisperings of the room that grew my sweet, sweet boys. the room that holds my heart.
do you have a nook or a cranny in your house that holds more than a life-size relic of your heart?
Oh so precious, bam.
I presently live in a similar house of memories. I’m so glad you can find comfort in it now. Your life, your family’s lives, will continue to grow change evolve as will your home.
My chair at your table has been empty lately but your comforting aura is never far from my heart. Someday we’ll meet and share stories but please know how much comfort and sustenance you’ve given me in the most challenging times of my life this past year. I sense that I’m not alone in how much I value and cherish you and this loving space you’ve created.
Continued blessings to you dear one and thank you.
dear dear laura,
bless your heart. your gentleness and kindness are healing balms for me this day, and believe me, there’s more healing needed than i can spell out here. your chair is here for you always, even on the days and in the weeks and months when you can’t wander by. every chair ever has been so saved. in almost 10 years these chairs have been filled by precious souls, some of whom don’t come by anymore. it does my heart good to know this holds a special place for you. me, too. xoxo
“the arithmetic of soccer is harsh, makes no allowances for size of heart.”
that one really got me Babs!
Stephanie Rogers http://www.hipchick.com
it gets me, too…..
if only we ruled the world….
It sure does help, on nights when I can’t sleep, to be able to climb the stairs to that dormer room where my son’s old notebooks still reside, to dip into the early draft for a high school essay or peruse again all the wonderful drawings he made for the space vehicles of his dreams. Now he lives across the country–he and his wife and his 5-month-old little girl. One of these days, I’m hoping to show her those drawings.
A lovely essay. Savor every moment with that boy of yours the next few years.
i love hearing your peek into the future. love knowing that it is a balm of a room at your house, and in your heart.
and as for savoring, i am and i will.
The more things change, the more we yearn for how things used to be… So many, many transitions for you and your dear ones right now. This tender post plucks my heartstrings so… Thinking of you and your darling boys and sending love. May this new season bear much fruit and afford fine new opportunities and perspectives for each one of you as you grow through, and not merely go through, life. xoxoxox
thank you my beautiful beautiful friend. knowing i have this old table and chairs pulled up to the edge, that soothes immensely. i am blessed that we have a room where such treasures can be saved. and brought to life through the mere act of love. xoxoxo
I got tears reading this!! It provoked memories of my own 2, oh those sweet days before their “exodus” to another life. That “arithmetic of soccer” – oh, pangs hit me like sour notes – on the piano of my heart. I love how your words take me back to experiences in my own life!
i love that the words typed here uncork the stories in your own heart. that is my prayer every time i sit down to see what flows from my fingers — and my heart. xoxox
I too spent the last week painting over a 23 yr. old boy’s little fishies and starry ceiling and packing away tball trophies. The room feels like a sterile addition to my house but a loss of innocence and youth. And our best to sweet T. Working in a high school, I can tell him he will be towering soon!
i love that our lives unfold in parallel so often. love the chiaroscuro of your boy’s walls. thank you for kind words for T. i know they will find a way to his heart. xoxo
I read, transfixed, my heart both squeezed with emotion, yet bursting, too, with all the love that swelled from the page (well, from the screen) and spills over from you for your boys. That photo at the bottom … oh, oh, oh … makes me weep, too. Like you, I clean when my heart is inside out. (Tears have a special cleansing agent.)
T will grow, probably all at once, as though he went to sleep one night one height and woke up the next with his feet hanging over the bedstead, though I doubt his heart can get any bigger than it already is, the dear guy.
This house we are in became ours after all the children were launched, so there are not many memories of our kids here, but hopefully the house will fill up with stories of all the grands.
How very wonderful that you have a nook and take the time to sit and remember. So important. xoxoxoxoxo
first, i promise to issue a news bulletin the morning the feets hang over the bed (a sight i got used to seeing with his very tall brother….). i love that you clean too when you are inside out. and i love the stories of the grands that fill and will your house. and, most of all, i love you. xoxoxo
Oh, bam, each time I read this, the tears stream. Your feelings so parallel my own wistfulness for times gone and comfort taken from being kept company by beloved family belongings. Truly the specific is universal.
oh, bless you, dear dear karen. it’s that tender hearts have found their way here that draws us all so tightly into common bond. i love that no matter our circumstances or particulars, we somehow seem to stumble on those deeply held, ever-shimmering whole truths. i send love to you. xoxox