A Safe Space

There is a place in which I’ve spent a considerable amount of time throughout the course of my 37 years. And it is the only place I have never felt afraid.

When I was a small child it was the playroom for my sister and me. Painted bright yellow and full of toys, I spent hours in there pretending to be a doctor, a veterinarian, a mommy, a school teacher and eventually an artist.

As a teenager, when my parents converted it into their bedroom (farther away from our rooms upstairs… probably so they couldn’t hear all of the screaming) it was the place I went to beg, borrow or steal my mom’s favorite sweater, red purse or pair of heels.

As Empty-Nesters, my folks moved back upstairs while my sister and I built lives of our own… She just down the street and me on the other side of the country. Whenever I visited—heavy luggage in tow—it was a sanctuary as the “guest bedroom” and always a chance to take a deep breath and a step back from the ledge I was currently standing on during some silent but turbulent times.

At 31, after receiving a devastating blow followed by a mediocre severance package in the boardroom one day, my sanctuary 2,000 miles away suddenly became my new home. Falling from a spacious, ammenity-packed condo with mountain views to a single room overlooking our backyard, my father swiftly installed a new ceiling fan, lighting fixtures and cable connection to make me feel more at home in my humbling new digs.

Ever a victim of wanderlust and clueless to the nose dive our economy would soon experience… A voluntary but hasty adventure west and back again at 33 ushered in what would soon become a ten-month stint in what had officially become my “home” when I was homeless.

And now—whenever I want to visit from my new “home” two hours away—the room is always waiting for me. Like right now… as I type these words in front of the open window. It is quiet here. There is peace here. There is love and laughter here. There are sweet memories here. There is comfort here. And there is always… ALWAYS a good night’s sleep.

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Old Friends – Part II

My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

But they insisted and I picked it up and carried it across the street to my house joking that I was quote: “Taking my dollies and going home.” But as I made my way up the sidewalk and into my grown-up house where I pay all of the bills, I couldn’t help but feel like I was holding the past in my hands. A past never to be visited again… A time now relegated to the confines of a cardboard home.

I set the box in the living room and stared at it for a while. Drawn to Stephanie’s blue eyes, wide stitched smile and yarn ponytail, I felt uneasy. I couldn’t bring myself to take them to the basement or seal the box and pack it into the closet with the others. So I just stared at it… completely awestruck not only by the amount of time that had passed and how much had changed, but also by the giant presence that the tiny box had in the middle of my floor.

After a couple of hours I was tired of staring at it and walking around it as I went about my business. So I hoisted it onto my hip and decided to carry it up to the loft in my bedroom. I couldn’t put them away, yet I refused to be that girl… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Once in the loft I had two choices, put the box in the cabinet up there — which is much more accessible than my storage area in the basement thus allowing me to feel less guilty as I had not actually PACKED them away. Or I could remove them from the box entirely and place them on one of the loft’s shelves.

I deliberated for a moment, considering my options. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I picked up each one and studied it, gently wiping away a light layer of dust that had accumulated on their faces, clothing or fur. It was then that I decided to go for the latter. I am the only one who goes up there save for my nieces and nephews on occasion so it’s not like everyone who comes into my home would think I WAS “that girl”… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Seeing them out of the box and propped up on the shelf made me feel a little better. They were no longer boxed up and hidden like a past to be forgotten. They now had a place in the present. A place to be remembered when I wanted or needed to remember these great, old friends and probably more importantly… the person I was when I held them so dear.

Old Friends – Part I

Some days I find it impossible to believe that Time is only marching forward. Despite the daily reminders that surround me, at times I refuse to accept it. I live in constant denial that all of us are getting older… Shoving the notion to the back of my brain like pushing a hideous, itchy sweater to the back of the closet.

Some of the reminders are harmless and precious like witnessing your niece go off to her first big dance. Some of them are not so great such as the discovery of a few grey hairs, new laugh lines or a pain where there never used to be one. Worse yet, some of them are downright cruel in witnessing loved ones succumb to the disease of time.

On occasion reminders of relentless forward motion catch me by surprise, as do the emotions that accompany them.

This weekend my parents were doing some serious house cleaning in order to make room for their new furnace to be installed. When I stopped by for a visit, my dad slid a large blue plastic storage tub in my direction and removed the lid, asking me if the stuffed animals inside belonged to my sister or me.

Immediately I was taken aback at the instant recognition of some very old, very faithful friends. I slowly bent down and began sifting through the soft synthetic fur and yarn discovering one by one an old familiar face. I held back tears as I lifted old dolls and plush critters from their resting places and held them in my 36-year-old hands for the first time in easily two decades.

The first one I noticed was Stephanie, an oversized, homemade doll made for me by a close family friend at the request of my parents one Christmas. She was made to look just like a Cabbage Patch Kid either because my parents couldn’t get their hands on one due the insane demand for them that year or in trying to give my sister and I both a very nice Christmas, they didn’t quite have the money. It didn’t matter. I loved that doll. She was different from all of my other friends’ factory dolls because she had been made JUST for me.

Then there were the couple of Cabbage Patch dolls that came a year or two later, a stuffed penguin that I’d bought at Sea World with my very own money the summer my mom, grandmother, aunts, sister and cousins all went together and had a picnic before seeing Shamu. I still remember the stupid 80’s outfit I wore that day. There was also a HUGE pink Easter bunny with big floppy ears and an Easter picture stitched on its belly. I can’t remember exactly where it came from or when I got it… but I do remember it being special to me.

I didn’t recognize each item in the big blue storage tub, so I assumed that the others must have belonged to my sister. My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

To be continued in tomorrow’s post…