Our house was built mid 1800’s, it’s evolutions marked in rises of the floor, sloping ceilings and the crooked corners of additions here and there. Our kitchen now was once the summer kitchen. We made our bedroom in the unfinished (still unheated) attic space above the kitchen. Altogether we have 4 bedrooms now and an office desk space carved out of a hallway.
Family is visiting. The eight kids running, laughing and playing inside our walls this week have no doubt encouraged my meditations on space. Recently, my husband met a man. One thing led to another as they talked and come to find out, the man knew our house and the family who had it before we did. He knew them because before they lived and raised their four kids here for 43 years, he and his family lived here. He was born in our house. He grew up here in a family of eleven children.
I assume, I pray, I hope, the summer kitchen had been converted by the time that they were here, but the bedrooms? When my brain happens upon free space, it is the sleeping arrangements of this very large family that I puzzle over, admire, and sometimes envy. Like a jigsaw, I picture the rooms and lay out the bodies in my mind. It intrigues me because it’s my space and my world configured in a very different way.
Two notions from the thirteen body pile up request consideration. First, about space and how easy it is to get piggish about it. MacDonald’s fries aren’t all that’s been supersized in the last fifty years. Despite my frustrations about design and layout, there are more people today living in housing inferior to mine than there are people living in houses superior to mine.
The second notion is about the meaning of it all. Space in a home is a lot like space with meteorites. Space by itself is nothing but the shape between things. Space in a home is nothing but the shape between people. A shape made holy only by the presence of kindness, compassion, long suffering, and love.
These are not new thoughts. I say them to remind myself of true things I forget. I doubt I am alone in periodically wearing down against the onslaught of propaganda screaming (or is it streaming?) STUFF MATTERS. Houses do a fine masquerade as stuff, not space. Stuff resembling space in that by itself it doesn’t matter, it’s what you do with it that counts.
Perhaps grace exists to reclaim a home, reconsecrate the spaces even when things aren’t quite as you’d make them in a perfect world. Or maybe things are already perfect and we simply need to open our hearts to the richness of the spaces.