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Friday, September 3, 2010

After 17 Years: an Empty Bedroom

We have lived at our house in New Hope, Minnesota since July of 1993. When we bought this house, my son Ian was 6, and my daughter Rachel was 2 and a half. At that time, my wife and I had the largest bedroom, then Ian had the second biggest room. Rachel's bedroom was almost more of a personal office sized room compared to the others.

The room was painted a bright yellow and had all manner of "Girly-Girl" things that would befit a little girl's bedroom. Over the years, Rachel would share the roughly 12 foot by 9 foot bedroom(with the help of a bunk bed) with her AFS sister's Tiphaine, Akane and Orn.  Right before my son Ian went to Japan for his AFS year abroad, we finally decided that Rachel had lived in the cramped space long enough.  We built a room in the basement for Ian and then Rachel took over(and repainted) Ian's room, which went almost overnight from being an adolescent boy's room to a feminine cathedral to all things equine. At that time, we were hosting Diego from Chile, who decided to paint the room popsicle orange.

The small bedroom was now re-invented from being a children's room to a teenager's pad. It went from being Diego's room to Benidikte's room. Our snowboard-loving Norwegian kept the room's bright orange color. This would change when Paula from Finland moved into the room in August of 2004. The words "Flamboyant" and "Finnish" don't really go well together. Paula asked if the flaming orange room could be painted a more sedate powder blue(not unlike on the Finnish flag).  The room stayed powder blue when Rodrigo from Portugal moved in 3 years ago. While he was with us, Ian and Andrea found out they were pregnant, and they were due to have their baby in the summer of 2008. Rodrigo was put in the unfavorable spot of having his room being transitioned to a baby's nursery even before he flew back to Lisbon. He was a pretty good sport about it.

The plan was for Ian, Andrea and Duncan to live with us until they finished their university studies. Luckily, Ian has a good eye for design, and he repainted the room with a whimsical day scene on a couple of the walls, and a starry sky on the other walls. On Duncan's shelves were a myriad of toy monsters and children's books.

Since June of 2008, this room has been Duncan's room...until today. My son, his wife and Duncan have moved into a place of their own over in Saint Paul. I admit that I have been very ambivalent about their moving. They need to be their own family unit after living with us the last 2 years. That said, it's a unique thing for a grandparent to watch their their grandchild grow up on a day to day basis. Duncan has gone from being a very calm baby to being an impossibly good-tempered two year old(He does have his moments, but they have been few and far between) Today, after Ian and I emptied out his room, I grabbed two of his favorite soft dolls, his Earnie and his Curious George along with some soft play tiles that had covered his floor. The finality of taking those last couple of toys out of Duncan's room just hit me harder than I had even anticipated....I totally lost it and started to cry in the kitchen-while still hanging on to Earnie and George. (That had to be quite a sight)

I cannot help but to think of images from that room from the past 17 years: of tow-headed Rachel playing with her Barnie and her American Girl Dolls, of me reading Rachel her bed-time stories, of Rachel chattering away with her AFS sisters later at night in the room-when they all knew they should be asleep, of Tiphaine, Orn and Akane NEVER complaining about the tight quarters of the room,  of Diego playing guitar in the room, of Bennie crying over a boy who had broken her heart, of Paula having the cats asleep on her chest and head, of Rodrigo's soccer and rugby clothes scattered in the room...of changing my grandson's diapers countless times, of dressing him, of watching him play on the floor of his room....of laying him down to say goodnight, and how much "Papi"(that's me) loves him-and how Duncan never gave me an ounce of trouble in putting him to bed.

 There are so many images that come to mind of the occupants of this now empty tears start to well in my eyes, I ask myself what will be the next incarnation of this room that has seen so much in the past 17 years?

It has been said that a house is just the board, brick and drywall-it's the people in the house that make it a home.  That is very apparent as I walk through the now empty bedroom.

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