It’s quite clear that I am enamored with all of this space around me–all of the grass and the sky and the pink road that stretches on for miles onto the horizon. I stand outside and feel like I could simply blow away with the leaves in this vast landscape, no more significant than a field mouse really.
But I am a completely different size in this house. In fact, I am actually quite significant, and so is my shoe population, unfortunately for my husband’s side of the closet. Just to give you a bit of a visual of what we are dealing with here, when you knock on the door, you can see directly into the bedroom (and if you take five steps, you will be inside of it). Closing the bedroom doors would be an option, except that they have windows–beautiful, but not so practical when you’re in the process of changing your shorts and the neighbor pops in for a chat. And if my husband and I were standing side by side in the living room and tried to perform the chicken dance the way it was meant, our elbows would be scraping the sides of the room, which rules out any kind of gymnastics performances. I haven’t nearly successfully completed the move of all our earthly possessions from our three bedroom, three bathroom home to our new humble abode and we have already nearly covered every moveable inch with stuff. And when you throw two people, and two dogs (one of them the size of a small teenage boy) into the mix, there is not much floor space to skip around in. And I do like to dance and sometimes kick a leg up while doing the dishes, so that throws a bit of a kink in my style.
But I am not complaining. In fact I like living in smaller spaces, because, when it comes down to it it means less surface area to have to worry about dusting and scrubbing and vacuuming, and I’m really all for that. Anyway, I am sure, unless you were born into the Hilton family or are waiting to be crowned the next king or queen of a country, most of us have had the experience, or will have the gift of living in close quarters with someone we promised to have and hold no matter how many times we step on each others’ toes while brushing our teeth. In fact, I think it should be a requirement that all couples who are contemplating a life long commitment, live together in a one bedroom, one bathroom, one closet home. Because nothing spells love and commitment quite like holding your pee while your dearly beloved finishes his morning grooming ritual.
No, there is no hiding anything here really. Last night, we sat down in the living room for a lovely dinner of burned grilled chicken legs (I cooked), my husband sprawled out in his recliner, me and my plate dangerously close to his reclined stocking feet, and I couldn’t get past the fact that my instant rice tasted a bit like a foot that had been crammed into a pair of work boots all day in 90 degree weather. Ugh, I think I can still smell it.
Although there is no hiding from the unfortunate stenches, there is also no hiding from each other. You wake up in the morning and as you move about the house, reaching for the coffee, your hand gently brushes his. You get ready for the day and you lean across his body for your comb and laugh as you watch him crane and distort his nose and mouth while he works to shave his face. He stands in the kitchen, cutting up onions for his famous and favorite soup and the smell of bay leaves and butter wrap around you and you can’t help but get up to do the same to him. The walls move in on you and you move closer to one another. You are no longer swallowed up in the space between the multiple rooms you once used to get away from one another in an argument, but forced to look in the eye the emotions that have been provoked. The whispers in the dark sweep over you and the laughter rattles the foundation. There is no need to shout.
But when I am stubbing my toe on the coffee table for the thirteenth time that day or tripping over the damn dog in the middle of the floor, I can not believe this is where my five cousins, two sisters, two aunts, two uncles and my parents spent holiday weekends, cooking, eating, sleeping and, let’s be honest here, putting on interpretations of the “Wizard of Oz.” It seemed so much bigger when I was growing up. Interesting, considering that it was full of so much more than bodies, but of laughter and love and conversations, the smell of homemade bread, a house cat and a large Christmas Tree. Where did we all sleep? How did we manage to put on what I would consider successful and entertaining dance performances to Paula Abdul? How did we all fit around the kitchen table? And where did my grandmother keep all of her shoes for crying out loud?
I don’t know. I remember only faintly what it looked like in here, what photos she hung and where my grandfather’s easy chair sat. As I curse the closet space and shove my luggage under the bed of the very room my grandmother used to sleep in after a day of chores and raising three children, I wonder if she ever cursed the small stove or wished she had room for a bigger kitchen table. I imagine her life here, where her bed was placed and if the sun hit her face the same way it hits mine in the summer mornings and if she left the windows open at night like I do. I imagine her as a light hearted wife humming in the kitchen while plopping down pancakes for breakfast. Sometimes, when I’m outside, I swear I can hear her calling to the cattle or to her grandkids to come inside for supper. I compare her life to mine in this house, between these walls and how different this world must be from hers.
But seeing my tupperware shoved in the re-done cupboards, the laundry stacked up on the bed, the unopened cans waiting for me to rearrange the pantry and the work boots scattered in the entry way, I long to fill this house they way she filled it. I want people to sit close, eat my cooking and drink my bad coffee. I want our laughter and kitchen light to flood the farmyard late into the night and bounce off the buttes and make the landscape ring with life.
And some days, when I am scrubbing the floor or dusting the shelves, I feel like her. I feel her smile spread across my face, her kink in my back. And I wonder if this house held her the way it is holding me. I wonder if these walls closed in on them the way they have on us, urging us to break down, to touch, to hold on tight to each other. I wonder if she stood in the kitchen making dinner for her husband and if he felt moved to come up behind her and gently kiss her cheek. I wonder if she danced in the living room. I wonder if she tripped over her coffee table and walked out into the landscape and opened her arms up wide and smiled as the big, blue sky swallowed her up.