Living Spaces

Having a small family in an eight-room colonial tends to leave quite a bit of flexibility in terms of space – and this has certainly become quite a small family again since Kelly, and then Leigh, moved out. I’ve wanted for years to be able to offer a guest room, and it took quite a while to work through all the machinations necessary to reach that point. But six months worth of shifting, consolidating, lifting, and remodeling have finally borne fruit in a finished bedroom available to friends, family, and other passers-through.

Nastia and Yulia will occupy the room through most of July, and the space is earmarked during the coming school year for a Korean exchange student – a school-mate of Abby’s from the Montrose School, named Zoey. We will likely continue to host exchange students for most of the next decade as our girls complete their schooling, but sooner or later I would also like to be able to offer safe room and board on a transitory basis to some of the needy young mothers who come to the Church’s Pro-Life office seeking help.

office_empty That’s down the road, however, as the day-to-day lives of my two youngest children will dictate the pace of domestic living for several years to come. To that end, a major part of the reconfiguration I did in the house over the first half of the year was to prepare a room on the upper floor into which I consolidated the “office” space in the house – moving myself and most of my collection of about a thousand books out of a basement area I’d refinished when we bought the house at the beginning of the decade, as well as the remnants of Joyce’s former home office from a different room on the second floor. I liked the basement (especially the inherent coolness during the summer months, which I particularly miss on days like today), but I seem much less isolated up here from the rest of the family when I retreat to read, study, or work on something at my desk.

office Getting that desk up here was a bit more of an adventure than I’d bargained for. I shouldn’t complain – it went well, after all. My friend Rich came over to help me with it, and we got it and all the bulky stuff moved in under an hour, but I ended up leaving work with chest pains a few days later, and it’s hard for me not to draw causal conclusions from that, given the overall lack of discomfort I’ve had since my second stent procedure last September. The desk is an old, post-WWII, green linoleum-topped steel office desk, a clunker I made a little less unpresentable some years back by painting the steel black and adding sleek drawer pulls. I’ve been lugging this thing around since I bought it for $10 in 1980, and it almost got me this time. Someone around here would like to see it gone, but it would cost me over $1,000 to replace functionally – and frankly, I’ve grown rather fond of it.

The third key driver for this project, apart from opening up a guest room and getting my work space out of the basement, was to move Abby and Rebecca out of the only bedroom in the house lacking a safe fire exit to an adjacent porch or garage roof. That was done by repainting Leigh’s old room, and moving them in there. I then remodeled their old room with enough shelf space to accommodate all my non-fiction. The finishing work included what I took at the time to be the supremely silly effort of sanding the hardwood floor with hand tools (and not very well, I should add). When I moved on to the final (guest) room, I discovered that I could do even sillier things, as I went out and rented a drum sander to handle that floor.

Whatever possessed me to think I would be able to get one of those things up to the second floor, two years (to the weekend!) after having a heart attack, I surely do not understand – I was afraid I’d trip the ticker just lifting the thing into the van to bring it home! I improvised a ramp to handle the bulk of the distance on the larger set of stairs, and otherwise just prayed it wouldn’t be my last act on earth – who, then, would apply the varnish, after all? Man, am I glad to finally have this job behind me.

But as I settle into this latest phase of my life – what with my new digs, my return to school, and the prospect of hosting lodgers – I need to think seriously about understanding my quickly changing limitations. I need to lean more on other people, so that I can do things I’ve never done before – or at least be around to try. Times change, indeed. Some doors open while others shut, as we all march relentlessly toward life’s final curtain.