By Sue Murphy
For a short time (very short) when I was growing up, I shared a bedroom with my sister. It didn’t go well. When we moved a few years later, in a brilliant stroke of self-preservation, my mom and dad let go of the idea of having a separate den and gave us each our own room.
Today, my sister and I get along great. It only took … well … a lot of years and each of us having, not only our own rooms, but our own houses in our own states, although I am happy to report that we shared a room on a cruise last summer and everything went swimmingly. She didn’t take my clothes without asking and I didn’t break her crayons.
Even with a room of my own, my school-aged self periodically would hollow out a space in the back of my closet where I could prop up a few pillows and read with a flashlight. The whole room was mine, yes, but my mom had access to everything when she was putting away my clothes, which she had bought for me and subsequently washed and folded, so it was fair. But there was something about that space at the back of the closet that made me feel cozy and secure.
Deep down, I think everyone wants some truly personal space, a few square feet that reflect that often-neglected part of them that doesn’t get a lot of play time when they have to be a functioning grown-up. Even when you live by yourself, the house doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s all yours. The kitchen is for cooking (if you so choose), the dining room is for dining, and the bathrooms aren’t open for other interpretations. Even the family room, where you are supposed to be able to relax, is decorated for the pleasure of visitors who might come to call.
But let’s say that right now you have a child going off to college or getting married or moving to Australia. Or hey, maybe you’re the one doing the moving. You’re moving on up to the East Side to a deluxe apartment in the sky that just happens to have the required number of bedrooms plus one. All of a sudden, you have a space that you could conceivably repurpose. The world is your 12×12 oyster. What will you do with it?
Maybe you want a space where you can leave your easel or sewing machine all set up, maybe lay out a jigsaw puzzle that you could leisurely work on one piece at a time. Maybe you have a model train that would be so much happier with a permanent track, or a big bucket of Legos that could be just about anything if they didn’t keep getting sucked up by the vacuum cleaner. Some people dream about having a wrapping room, and I want to find out who those people are because they must give out a lot of presents.
All of a sudden you have to ask yourself, “What do I (me, just me) want to do?” Or to put it another way, “Who am I?” It’s scary and thrilling at the same time.
I keep a sign on the door to my office: “Beyond This Place There Be Dragons.” Maybe that’s what the whole man cave/she shed thing is all about, having a place where you can close the door and keep the dragons at bay, whether it’s a room of your own or simply a pillow and a flashlight in the back of your closet.