The end goal for the construction we endured a week ago was to create a room large enough for my two boys to share. They’ve been sharing a room for twelve years, ever since Patch was born, and it worked reasonably well when they had a bunk bed. But a few years ago they felt done with bunk beds. The result was a room that had an aisle for walking, two beds and two dressers. There really wasn’t any space for playing or hanging out. It was where they slept and where they stored their stuff. And they kept getting bigger until we had the largest person in our house and the rapidly growing one crammed together in the smallest bedroom. So I wiggled the finances around and we finished the basement room which used to be my shipping room. When we learned that the carpet would not arrive until mid-May, the boys decided to move into the new room and live with a concrete floor for a few weeks. We moved the essentials and boxed the rest in order to minimize the amount of stuff we’ll have to move back out for carpet install. By noon the furniture was in and the boys were already enjoying their new space.
A strange thing happened as the upstairs room began to empty out, I traveled back in time. The last time I saw the room so empty was when it held a crib and a mattress on the floor for my two little boys. I stood among the boxes and read the history writ on the walls. There were the circles Link drew on the wall and ceiling when he had the top bunk and planned out orbits for his glow-in-the-dark solar system. Next to them was the shadow of a Blues Clues wall sticker, beloved for years and then removed when it became embarrassing. The spot where Link decided to keep score in a game by writing it on the wall. A hundred pin holes because the boy’s default mechanism for hanging things was to steal push pins from my corkboard. My flow of memory was only enhanced by the fact that we dug into the very back corners of their closet. It was an archeological dig back to Link’s much younger years. I had him sort things he wanted to keep into boxes and the rest we discarded or gave away.
I kept it together until Link left his jar of eraser buddies for me to get rid of. I held it up and said “what about these.” He shook his head and said “nah.” I held the little jar in my hand. It had been so important to him eight years ago. I wrote a blog post about the games he played with them during homework time. That was half his lifetime ago and he has become someone else. I sat in the room after Link had gone downstairs. I looked around the room where my little boy used to live. I held one of his treasures in my hands and a wave of sadness rolled over me. I grieve sometimes for the children that are gone. They transformed and became new people. I like who they are. I certainly don’t want them to stop. But sometimes, like today, I cry for a while. And I keep the eraser buddies, even though I know that is a little bit silly.
The new room is so much better for the boys. They have space to be teenagers together. They’ve made plans to acquire a small couch and a monitor so that they can play video games with friends in their room. Link walked with me through IKEA and I could see him thinking about an adult living space. He’s getting excited about chairs they way he used to get excited about toys. Time marches onward. We change and we change our spaces to match our new selves. Next week Kiki will come home and move into the room that was vacated by the boys. She will hang things on the walls and turn that room into something it has never been before. In the near future, probably after Kiki has vacated to return to college, the room will get a new coat of paint and a new carpet. The room my little boy grew up in will transform, just as he did.