A Room of Her Own
Since we have downsized dramatically, if temporarily, for this move, I find myself without a dedicated office space (or nook, or corner, or shelf) in our home. This would not be so tragic if I had office space on campus, which would mean having a job here, which I don’t, so scratch that. Right now I’m typing at the dining room table. Fine for now, but not ideal for laying out the materials required for a large project, like a book. Not that my faculty office was every anything to get too excited about. At the university, I always shared an office with another colleague, which meant that my quarters ranged from completely cramped to merely slightly overstuffed.
I was bemoaning this at a BBQ with our neighbors a couple of weeks ago and my neighbor, whose first floor serves as the office for his wine importing business, told me he had extra office space to loan out to me a few days a week. It’s a lovely space and huge and well appointed and definitely more than any faculty office anywhere would ever be and after touring it, I had the vision of myself, spread out just a wee bit, perhaps with a small attractive hanging file cart with my research essentials off to the side, sitting at the dark wood desk, sipping coffee (or wine?) and writing. In this vision I am also slender and attractive, natch. Given the nature of the business whose office I’m borrowing, I also envision mid-afternoon wine tasting breaks, brilliant conversation (also in German), and, eventually, the offer to earn money by traveling the world and tasting wine. I mournfully kiss academia goodbye, but the parting is eased by my glamourous new life, the piles of cash I am earning, and office space all to myself. A beautiful vision, yes? My fantasy life is nothing if not rich and exciting.
It took me a surprisingly long time to take the neighbor up on his offer. While the kids were at camp, I felt pretty comfortable spreading out here in the apartment and I didn’t need an escape from their spazziness. So it took me until this week, when the kids are at home and not at camp, to go next door and check it out. I only staid about 90 minutes–enough time to deal with all my handwritten changes in the monograph introduction. The office space is all that I would ever need, and sooo quiet. . . . . until the sounds of my shrieking children began wafting through the patio doors. The neighbor’s son, who is older than my kids by a bit, was playing tag with them in the yard. Ingrid’s screams, always a joy, are of the dead-wakening variety and I was certain that having my kids follow me into the realm of the precious office space was going to scuttle the deal for good. Then, the neighborhood children come traipsing into the office–they need a drink, they need to go pee. Christopher is leading the charge into his dad’s space, but it is my kids trotting along behind him and I just cringe. Gone is the fantasy of brilliant, slender me, writing away and taking occasional breaks to discuss wine or books or politics with the importers, supplanted by the reality of me hissing to my kids in the conference room: go to the bathroom at HOME! Be quiet!
Dad reacts pretty calmly, reminding Christopher that there are other places to drink and pee and that this is his work space. I cringe inwardly, wondering if my presence is really the reason for all of this kid tumult. We all go back to work. I breathe a sigh of relief. The screams from the back yard game of tag are ok now, since they mean the kids are at least outside having fun. I’m a bit chilly. The AC in the office is cooling the space to 22 degrees C (71 degrees F!) and the tips of my fingers are turning blue. The remote control that governs the AC unit has a dead battery and I’m too short to adjust it manually. At this point, there are only a few more pages that I need to deal with before I am done with this chunk of work.
Then, dinner obligations call, and maybe that glass of wine, too. I head home and the kids sense me changing location. I walk in to the kitchen, put down my bag, and they come in right after me, demanding my attention.