June 16, 2015

Creating Space

My earliest memories of childhood are of creating special spaces.  My mother is mostly responsible for this, since she took particular care of the décor in our home, including my bedroom.  I can remember being 5 years old, in kindergarten, and almost unable to contain my excitement with the idea of getting home at the end of each day (for a kindergartener, that's noon!) just so I could be in the newly arranged bedroom that my mom created. 

It was a room in the upstairs of a modest cape style home, no larger than 10x10 feet, with one window and gabled ceilings.  She had created an entire "house" for me in that space: a bedroom, a reading "room" with my books surrounding me on three sides, an art "room" with all of my paints and drawing books and a chalk board where I played teacher, and a "room" just for my toys.  All of this was arranged such that each space was creatively separated by pieces of furniture, individually lit, with area rugs carefully placed in each of the "rooms".  To a miniature human, it felt like a castle and was not only an incredible place to be in at that age, but also a beloved memory.  I wonder if my mom even recalls doing this.  Do you, Mom? 

In the years to come, I arranged the furniture in my father's living room with sheets and blankets draping over, creating a secluded space that I would pretend was a tent.  I drew there, read there, imagined there, slept there, dreamt there.  Before I would fall asleep under my "tent", I would leave one end of the blanket open, the end facing the exterior windows, and at night would make wishes on the stars.  I felt completely alone and content to think and dream and do as I wished. 

Being an only-child has its benefits and one of them is that I never shared a room with anyone growing up.  I had this weird bent toward staying up all night in my bedroom and starting projects after midnight.  Sometimes, the project was art related.  Other times, it involved moving my furniture around because I was needing change in my space.  After a few hours and once everything was in its new place, I would lay on my bed and notice how the view had changed.  It was my way of seeing things differently and living my secluded kid-life.  I relished that first night of going to sleep with a different perspective:  how the moonlight squeezed brighter or darker than before around the edges of the window blinds, where the new shadows cast on the bedroom walls, from where the house seemed to creak somewhat more loudly or softly.  It was always my own space to do with as I pleased and that allowed for creativity and independence.  I remember my childhood as a continuous internal monologue within those four walls, inside my kid-head with my kid-drawings and my kid-music.  Creating that kid-space was more important than any in my life.  I am sure of that. 

When I had my first apartment at college, I asked my mom to come and decorate for me.  It was an old Bostonian, six-story walk-up studio and I had a dismal array of hand-me-down furniture, but the touches my mother made were incredible!  By the end of a single day, I had house plants and elegant fabrics hanging in open doorways and drapes on the windows and furniture arranged in such a way that each of the areas were casually defined: there was an area near the apartment door that had a foyer table used for keys and mail on which my mother left an enormous vase of home-grown lilacs, my office which had a used banker's desk that looked much more regal than any standard-issue college furniture, and a beautiful bedroom with complimenting dresser and side table.  It felt like an "adulthood" home.  I was a 20-year-old, working at my first full-time position in an architectural firm and I couldn't wait to be in my pretty space at the end of each day.

In the fall of 1996, before I left for my Architectural study abroad in France, I wrote an essay called "Creating Space".  It was for a scholarship through Eddie, my stepdad's, union and would potentially award $5,000.  As I recall, it was supposed to be about the what's and why's on my chosen educational path.  Like with most things, I procrastinated.  I mean, I had a boyfriend and studio and a life and six classes and Boston and dreaming of France for the next six months and who had time for writing a stupid essay on "Creating Space"?  I think after the umpteenth time of my mom and Eddie urging me, I sat down, opened the vein of my miniature self and bled onto the paper why and what made me originally love space.  After all, architecture is just the involved process of Creating Space, right?  (My theoretical friends, i.e. Sue, will just LOVE me for this simplification).  At 4 o'clock on the day the essay was due, when his office was just about to close for the weekend, the guy that I knew in my college's postal department sent it out for overnight delivery - without charging me.  I thanked him profusely and crossed my fingers with a vague inkling that no one would even open the envelope, never mind read my essay inside.

A month later, I received word that I had won. 

My mom called me, crying of course, proud that I was awarded the scholarship, and she read back to me the photocopied essay that she neither knew I wrote nor that I had sent in by the skin of my teeth.  In 1996, I didn't own a computer, so the essay was handwritten, and therefore, I don't have a copy of it.  But I know that it was a short, down to the minimally required counted-word memoir of growing up with a mother who wonderfully transformed my teeny bedroom into a house and about a childhood living in tents and other created spaces that I felt happiness and freedom and personal expression.

By the way, that is only half the reason I wanted to be an architect.  More to come on that.

After this awful 2015 New England winter of unrelenting storms and 110" of snow and parking bans and a civic infrastructure that, for the most part, collapsed, I set out this spring to create an outdoor porch space that I would truly enjoy.  Anyone north of the Mason-Dixon owes it to themselves to spend as much time outdoors and getting some well-deserved Vitamin-D while they can. 

I purchased a narrow loveseat that perfectly fits the width (down to the inch!) of my porch for lounging and reading, a bistro table for lovely, intimate dinners for one or for two, outdoor carpets, and many planted herbs and flowers.  Sue gifted from her incredible store, http://makegoodstudio.com/, the green outdoor lumbar pillows now on my loveseat and a color scheme was born!  I feel as if I have gained a new room.  From my porch, I see the quiet fog of Dorchester mornings, breathing in the fresh salt air that I missed while living in DC for six years.  I see milky pink sunsets that silhouette the Jones Hill Victorians from my porch, bumblebees feeding on my begonias, and other neighbors lounging in their backyard spaces.  It's a place that I can have both coffee and wine with and without others, where I can think, write, and eat there.  It is the happiest place I know at the moment and it is all mine.  I plan to love the fuck out of it until Cold and Raw November reminds me of the marvelous gift of space I gave to myself this summer and its eventual hibernation until next year.
Until then, I'll be writing, reading, and everything else a well deserved summer brings.  Find your space and promise me you'll love the fuck out of it, also.

Love, AT


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