The past week I had an eerie feeling of deja vu. My daughter Sarah was soon to return home for the summer, just as she had last year about this time, and she was returning to a unknown house and a new bedroom, again, just as she had last summer. Of course, last summer was different in some significant ways. We were not in our own house and we had almost none of our own possessions. The insurance company had found a rental house – a huge 3500 square foot house – for us to live in while my fire-damaged house was being restored. Even the furniture and dishes and linens were rentals. It was oddly disorienting and yet, after the fire, a short stay with neighbors, and a week in a hotel, it had already begun to feel like home, sorta. Sarah had quickly found a way to personalize her room there, but she missed, at times, all the stuff normally at her disposal: books, DVDs, and all the usual kitchen and bathroom supplies.
This summer Sarah came home to a much smaller house, just 1435 square feet. That’s more than 1000 square feet smaller than our previous house (and more than 2000 square feet smaller than the rental). Who needs so much space? I certainly don’t now that I live mostly on my own. We are also in a one-story house for the first time in over a dozen years. She felt it a bit odd at first. The guest room, aka her summer bedroom, is much smaller and the hallway bathroom is not just for the kids. I use it, too, since the master bathroom in this 1959 house is tiny. I showed her around the house and explained where everything was. She quickly made herself at home and before I could say ‘welcome back,’ she had taken over the bathroom counter. That’s not going to work here, I told her. I need this space, too.
I need my space — not a lot, but I need space just for me. Much as I love my daughter and son, I also love having my home all to myself. When Sarah first went off to college two years ago, I didn’t suffer the depression or blues or blahs of the new empty-nester. I went shopping and redecorated instead. I bought a nice new clean microwave, never sullied by messy teenagers heating up endless snacks. I outfitted my bed with brand new linens. I ate cereal for dinner and watched TV when I wanted to and planned my free time with no concerns for anyone else. It didn’t last. My son, suffering from depression, returned home, then came the fire, and my daughter returned from college. Then, in the fall, they both left for school. Finally, finally, my chance for an empty-nester lifestyle had returned, and I have to say that I love it.
After three decades of considering the needs of men (two different ones in too quick a succession) and/or kids, I am relishing my new-found freedom probably as much as my kids are relishing their budding independence. This doesn’t bode well for a future romantic relationship, I realize, because I’m not sure I’d want anyone, even a lover, living with me. Not all the time. I need my space. I love both of my kids more than anything or anyone in the world and I love having them visit, but I’m definitely finding it hard to adjust having someone in the house again. I miss my space.