This is My Space

Before I was Mama, I could care less about the meaning of my living space. But now, my husband and I have a responsibility to curate a home for our daughter, far removed from our support system of loving nanas and papas and uncles and aunts. It’s just the three of us. And our house. Suddenly, these bricks and tall windows are my whole wide world, and, until recently, I had been in heated denial.

I often think about the home in which I grew up, built by my parents’ hands from the ground up. The walls, the floor, the roof, the hardwood floor, the tiles on the countertops; each nail and beam and texture was a labor of love and sacrifice. Literal blood and tears and sweat built that home. I have nothing like that to offer. The walls in which we live, were built by a band of strangers. There are some touches of us (my glorious grey floors, my husband’s backsplash), but the structure is just a structure without much of a story to tell. But, in this house, there can be a new beginning.

When we moved into this house my husband and I had been living apart for over six months, no easy feat with a 12 month old. He was here, in Texas, working to support us and hunting for a new home. I was with my parents and sisters in California. We were making it work, we are well-tested in long distance marriage. But this time, it was different when we were finally reunited. This time, I felt completely detached. I was disconnected from my role as wife, from this new town and from this new house. When we arrived, I unpacked the necessities and pushed the rest of the boxes into the guest room. And so we lived simply in our new, clean, basic house for the next six months while I tried to gather my emotions and redefine myself.

And then, a night not long ago, a delivery man snuck a peek into the house and asked if we had just moved in. I was a little surprised. We had been here for half a year. I turned and looked into the dining room. My view shifted, and I saw that my house didn’t look simple, clean, or basic. It looked empty. Soulless. Cold. It looked like all the displacement I was feeling. And, more than being embarrassed for what the troops of neighbors and delivery men thought, I was horrified that my daughter was living in such a barren house. This house was not our home because I hadn’t made any effort to warm it for her; she was living with stacks of moving boxes, blank walls, undefined spaces and empty bookcases. I hadn’t even unpacked my beloved library of well-loved books that has been my most valuable friend for decades. I felt that I had failed at my responsibility to establish a nurturing environment into which my family could grow. I was irresponsible. I was selfish. I was sad. Not only was the house empty of décor, it was empty of real joy, of real identity, of real living.

Now, I understand a lot of why my parents had worked so hard to build our house. I realize that it was never really complete. There was always a project that needed to be finished. There were walls that needed to be painted, molding that needed to be hung, lights that needed to be installed. Even with exposed 2x4s, the house was our home because it was loved. If houses love, it certainly loved us back. That home was comfortable and sweater-warm.

So, I started opening boxes and unloaded the small selection offramed photos and few pieces of memorabilia we’ve collected over the last ten years. Although it’s a start, it’s not enough to fill the walls. And now, I worry that I am doing it right. I feel, down to the very marrow of my motherly responsibilities, that I must be mindful of this home building task because I want to remember it, I want to be in awe of it, and I want my daughter and future children to feel the comfort that I felt in my childhood home. And still, it’s not about the décor. It’s not about the paint colors or the artwork or the shelving. I feel as though I can’t design what I want, I can’t buy it or have it made for me. Nothing about this life is designed. The life I want in this home has to be cured, over time, in laughter and tears, sacrifice and learning, words and music, joy and sadness.

We get to shape this space through our actions and our passions. I want the ringing of our laughter as we jump on the bed to light our way, the books we read and leave on the floor for days to warm our dreams, the plants we grow (and kill) to remind us of our roots in each other, the toys hidden in the couch to remind us of all the blessings we have, and the tears, all the tears and wails, that resound in these rooms and the follow up hugs and kisses and squeezes to strengthen our souls. The walls will be filled, eventually, with items heavy with important and colorful memories. For now, we will cover this house with our love and sacrifice, one room at a time. This is my place - unfinished, promising, unlimited. I am so glad to be here, finally, and I want you to see it.

Journalist:  Shannon Brown


Kelly Estrella