Susanna here. I’m still on deadline, meaning most days find me shut up in my writing room away from everybody else. It’s never easy on my family, when I’m at this stage of working on a novel. Mealtimes suffer, dustballs roll, and even when I’m right there with them I’m not really there.
I always suffer pangs of guilt. Until my desk reminds me not to.
Let me tell you why.
My father, an only child, became a husband at 21 and a dad at 23, and from age 26 had a wife and two daughters. Even our dog was a girl. But he never complained. Never joked about being “outnumbered”. He was, and is, an awesome dad.
His job as an engineer meant that we moved a lot—a few years here, a few years there. We lived in ordinary houses—cozy and nice, but not huge. Most had one bathroom and three bedrooms. Filled with much love and occasional mayhem.
For as long as I can remember, my dad in his quiet way tried to carve out a small space for himself in our various homes.
Nothing big. Nothing greedy. Just one little space for himself, where he could sit in peace and do his genealogy. Somewhere along the way he even found himself an old oak table to use as a desk, the perfect size. But there was rarely anywhere for him to put it. In the whole of my childhood the closest he came was a tiny little “office” in the basement that had room for that oak table and a filing cabinet and nothing more, wedged in between the room where we played ping pong and the laundry room. It wasn’t really what I’d have called “peaceful”.
Then we moved again. And then again, this time to an apartment overseas, which meant our things—my father’s desk included—were packed into storage for two years. There wouldn’t have been anywhere to put it anyway, because my sister and myself, being now teenagers, claimed every inch of space we could.
Eventually, after a couple more moves, when my sister & I left the nest, my dad got a small closet-like room off the dining room, just for himself. With a door.
Of course, this was right when I finished my first novel, and my parents, always supportive, let me move back home and gave me a room of my own while I waitressed and tried to get published.
But this meant my dad’s private space was now shared with me. That’s where I wrote. And he never complained.
Now, in his 70s, he finally has his own separate office space in their apartment. He might let his grandchildren sleep there sometimes, and he lets me go in with my laptop and write there if I need to work while I’m visiting, but it’s indisputably his.
And I, as the desk in my writing room here at my own house, use that old oak table my dad moved from house to house for all those years.
It reminds me, each day, of the value of having that space of our own. Even when others don’t understand why we need it.
Do you have a place in your house or apartment that's all your own? What does it look like, and what does it mean to you?