We are starting to trip over each other. Just a little and quite literally. Eliza puts on her shoes while Seth tries to put a book away. Lucille builds a creation while I’m trying to make the bed. We say excuse me, I didn’t mean to, oh, sorry. Our bodies move in this small space and we are touching each other, without meaning to.
Imogene, our very old, very fat yellow lab wants to sleep on the floor but she snores and bedtime, well; it isn’t the best time for the sounds of a freight train to come rolling through 282. She takes up 40 square feet on her own, sprawled on the “living room” floor. She’s so big. This place is so small. I nudge her outside each night as we put the kids to bed. She’s not happy about it.
Eliza has homework this school year. Reading mostly. Her teacher says she needs to practice, read aloud and play word games. The only place to do this is on the bed. But Lucille likes to walk from couch to bed while we’re trying to read. She can do that in one not-so-big step without touching the carpet. The game pieces fall to the floor and we have to start over. Seth is cooking dinner, which Lucille wants no part of so I pull her close and have her move my game piece. Imogene is usually snoring in the background. Dinner sizzles on the stove. We’re all in one room. Every night.
Eliza asks me to put her to bed even though I’m ten feet from her even if I don’t. Some nights I write, sometimes I watch a movie. I can see her face the whole time; hear her turn over in her sleep. Last night I saw Lucille’s foot peeking out from underneath the covers on her bed. Pink skin, red blanket. We are so, so close.
Lucille works hard to get her unicorns into bed each night. One pillow pet, wrapped with a unicorn blanket, baby unicorn tucked inside the blanket. If the unicorns fall to the floor during our bedtime routine, Lucille get mad, stomps over to whomever happens to be sitting in the other bed and pouts.
“It was such hard work,” she says. “Now they’re on the floor.” We go back and retuck baby unicorn into the unicorn blanket wrapped around the unicorn pillow pet. We put Lucille back in bed with all of them. I take three steps and get back in my own bed.
When I take a shower in the mornings, Lucille comes in to warm up by the heater. Most days, when I get out, both girls are in the bathroom. Lucille stands on the toilet to put on her lip gloss, Eliza looks in the mirror to adjust her skinny jeans. I ask them to step out so I can dry off. There isn’t space for all three of us to stand in the 5 x 6 room. They wait right outside the door, ask for milk for their breakfast cereal as I towel off.
It is tight. Winter is coming.
In some ways it is so easy living in a really small space. Clean up is quick, adding more stuff isn’t really an option so we don’t. But there are other, less tangible things that are harder to define: time to one’s self, space to think through something complicated. These are things we are still working to figure out.
But every night I go to sleep under the glow of Lucille’s pillow pet unicorn. I see the curve of her face in the purple light and I’m still glad we are here.