Do you, like most Americans, value personal space?
Because my large family was stuffed into small houses, I developed an early yen for breathing room. If a genie had offered me wishes, I would have wished three younger siblings elsewhere.
But when I rubbed living room lamps, the genie never showed. So, I competed for the bathroom, the best car window, phone privacy, and a quiet place to read.
Recently, our pastor reminded me of those futile cravings. Using a room and duct tape, he illustrated how we compartmentalize our lives, attempting to bar God from areas we want to control.
My husband’s righteous elbow jabbed me.
He knew that as a child, I’d done exactly that — though I used The String, not duct tape. Another difference: I wanted to live close to God. I didn’t want to share a bedroom with my sister.
A pack rat, she never made our double bed. Her kitten never messed on her pillow. Only mine.
With that almighty String, I divided our bed and our room. “You and Kitty stay on your side,” I decreed, “and I’ll stay on mine. If we touch each other’s side, we pay fifty cents.”
She stared. “But you have the door.”
“And you’re standing in it. Fifty cents, please.”
Our parents spoiled my privacy plan. They showed zero respect for budding capitalism. How could they destroy such a profitable enterprise?
Little did I know I someday would share dormitory rooms with aliens. A fellow introvert, also smothered by a 30,000-student campus, wallpapered the inside of an appliance box. Whenever excessive togetherness made her crazy, she retreated into The Box.
A similar box wouldn’t have worked for me as a young parent. First, I always flunk do-it-yourself projects. Second, three small children — two probably fragrant with needed diaper changes — would have crawled inside with me.
Hubby and I had stuffed our family into a tiny house. When I began consuming whole packages of Oreos, he realized something my parents didn’t get: I truly needed space.
Terribly North American. In some countries, whole families could have resided in our little home’s closet space.
But we moved to a larger house. My Oreo-snarfing behavior — rather than my children — disappeared. Of course, a parent never possesses sufficient personal space. Amid slumber parties, snow days, and laser tag battles, I didn’t realize my personal space would expand beyond belief.
The pandemic provided more distance for us North Americans than we’d ever dreamed of. The pastor preached his duct tape message to a socially distanced, masked congregation.
For months, my siblings and I couldn’t visit. Now, with loosening restrictions, we will. There will be no Strings or Boxes at my house.
Unless they try to move in.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you crave space?