I was 19 when I moved out of my parents’ three bedroom home. The house was stuffed full of our life; there was no emptiness, anywhere. The garage was overflowing with Christmas decorations and discarded softball gear. My room was jam packed with the memories of high school on the walls: mums, pictures, movie ticket stubs; books could be found spilling out of the closet, and stacked on top of any flat surface. My sister’s room was a tween’s dream with its Easter-egg-purple walls and green stripes, and silly posters hung with colorful tacks. The living room with its oversized furniture filled the space, even with the raised ceiling. The kitchen was stocked with every single gadget a cook could ever want, and a pan or bowl of every conceivable size.
I moved from that house with no echoes to my own three bedroom house in Oklahoma, 160 miles away. When the movers brought our boxes in, I was puzzled by the amount. We were going to live with so little things? How?
Getting married so quickly, so unexpectedly, and so young meant we had no wedding gifts. Actually, I believe very little of our friends and family knew we were married at all. It was a rapid, sudden, explosive departure from my former life with my former name, into an incredibly strange, and somehow empty world.
Our long living room was populated with an end table at the far end, and a 19-inch television perched on it… our entertainment center. Five feet back was a day bed, made up to look like a couch, since we didn’t have one. On either side of the couch were two plastic lawn chairs, a little faded from the sun… our seating area.
In the kitchen, we had a total of four cups, two dish towels, a microwave, and a coffee maker.
The dining room was our makeshift “office,” as we had no table or chairs to dine on. A desk sat against one wall with our computer and printer; for weeks we would spend our evenings together at the desk, laughing at funny things on the Internet and marveling that we we had actually done something so huge and different.
In our bedroom, the master bedroom (what was I doing in a master bedroom at 19?! It felt surreal), was a full-size bed, and a set of broken dresser drawers.
That’s it. That was the extent of our possessions. There were echoes in every square inch of that house.
The remaining two bedroom were completely vacant. We had no furniture or use for them at all. The closets eventually became designated for military uniforms, just to make things easier, but they weren’t needed.
For four years, I kept those doors shut, not wanting to cool or heat them for no reason. We slowly accumulated things, and those rooms became overflow, but never organized or seen as anything specific. Just extra emptiness.
Then, on a cold January day, after a three minute wait and two little lines, just like that, one of the rooms had a purpose. It was to be painted and decorated and organized and used. It was going to belong to a tiny someone.
After our tiny someone joined us, we were moving again, to a new three bedroom house in a different town. This time, the packing took a bit longer, and the amount of boxes that showed up in the new house in the new town seemed unreal. Surely our household items hadn’t multiplied this much?
A year or two passed, and we still had the one room that was never a destination, because there was no reason to go in… until the three minute wait yielded two more lines. The painting and the decorating began again.
Because of the gradual progression, I hadn’t thought about it until tonight. It has been over eight years ago that I stepped foot into that first house full of echoes. The house where we had spread out our meager things, trying to make them appear bigger than they were.
Now, this house, right now, has no echoes. Our lives spill out of each room, like my childhood spilled out of my parents’. My daughter and her sunny, yellow room and its gobs of toys. My son’s room with its slate gray walls and the wooden alphabet above the crib, and baby clothes at every turn. Our room with our individual end tables by the side of the bed, and our closets overflowing, a new, unbroken dresser, and a mounted television. Our living room with our own oversized furniture, and the kid toys tucked into every corner. The dining room with our massive table: always a sitting place for random objects. The kitchen–my kitchen–which now holds every kitchen gadget, bowl or pan that I will ever need.
I walk down the hall at night and look at the closed doors that seal off my children’s rooms as they sleep. It takes me back to the echo house, and the closed doors of the rooms that had no purpose. How much has changed in so little time! These closed doors make me smile, for behind them are pieces of my heart and soul. These doors hold two of the most important things that keep me bound to this earth; that give me a reason to care about the world.
I smile each night as I pass these doors. The doors and rooms with a purpose, a use. I whisper, “Goodnight,” to my children, to the rooms, and to myself.
There is no echo, for every space has been filled with our life.