“Son, brother, father, lover, friend.
There is room in the heart for all the affections,
as there is room in heaven for all the stars.”
A few days ago, we crammed family and friends into our tiny kitchen/living/dining room to celebrate a milestone: our daughter, Alice, just passed her nursing exam! As I stood surveying these 20 faces that are dear to our hearts, I was secretly wishing for just a little more space.
It’s been nearly six eventful months since I blogged about our house progress. We’ve been making a little room! To be exact, our new master bedroom addition has been under construction. For the nearly two years we have lived here, dear husband and I have been sleeping in the sunroom that will eventually be the kitchen. No closets, inefficient ventilation, and only cold, concrete floors were reminders of our desire to keep making this place our own. I keep reminding myself that making a little room is always a good call. It adds value.
It was a thrilling day last November when our son-in-love, Walter, poured the 27′ by 22′ foundation. He’s been involved in his family’s construction and concrete business since his teens. We were thankful to have his input as we drew up plans, chose materials, staked out boundaries, made changes to the plans, met with inspectors, and made even more changes. Right now, things are a mess. Our addition isn’t yet complete, but it’s getting there. Walter gathered friends to help us frame and roof. He set the windows. He prepped the floors. We all watched breathlessly as he wrapped duct tape around his shoes and expertly scaled the slippery metal roof to make everything just right.
There we were last Sunday, elbow to elbow, squeezing out a place to sit on a coffee table, pulling up another spare chair hastily brought in from the barn, or scooting over on a well-worn sofa to make room for one more person while balancing a full plate of food on our knees. It didn’t seem to matter much, because we were celebrating Alice’s perseverance and tenacity in her educational journey. Yes, I was wishing for just a little more room. However, I got a lump in my throat when I realized that we had all these people around us as a direct result of making more room. You see, making a little room isn’t about giving ourselves more space. It’s a deliberate, intentional effort to make room for others on your sofa, in your wallet, at your table, on your busy schedule, or in your heart. And if you’re not actively making room for others, you’re closing ranks so that your walls are exclusive and impervious.
“The more I think about it,
the more I realize there is nothing more artistic
than to love others.”
–Vincent Van Gogh
As I have pondered lately the things that are most meaningful to me, a thought settled in my brain that is both simple and profound: all the best people I know (and all the best houses I’ve been in) can always make a little room. There was the teenager who came to America with only $25 and a Farsi-to-English dictionary; he made room in his life for a new culture, a new country to love, a new vision, and a family of his own choosing, however daunting those tasks might have been. There was the grandmother of mine who set a shining example by always making room during holidays for those who didn’t have a place to gather with family; I fondly remember strangers or vaguely familiar faces showing up for those occasions nearly every year and being welcomed with open arms. There was my mother, whose mantra was, “Be sweet, y’all!” She urged us by her life and her words to always make room to love anyone who came into our patchwork family, whether they were blood or not, because of course it’s better to love more people than less! There is the childhood friend who has turned out to mean more than your 11 year old self could have imagined as today you watch her treat your children as her own. There is the step-mother, a word you can’t even choke out to describe her, who inspires you because she has been there for you since you were 7 and carrying a ton of baggage. There is the son-in-love, who swept my teenage daughter off her feet and married her, cared for her, gave her two beautiful children, and still had the energy to love and help all the crazy relatives that came with that transaction. These people and countless others inspire me to be better and do better at making a little room.
Are there inherent risks to making a little room? You bet. Be assured that it will cost you something. You might have to make numerous changes to your plans. It will be messy. It might even be excruciating as you inadvertently drive a nail through your finger with a nail gun or you feel the burning loss of a beloved son-in-law. A few weeks ago, we experienced this. Our Walter passed away unexpectedly at the age of 36, leaving a beautiful wife, two young children, parents, 13 siblings and their families, in-laws, and friends to mourn the loss of one man who always made a little room. But oh, the rewards of letting people share your space! They cannot be numbered. The joy is real. The memories are real. The love is real. Making a little room is always a good call.
Alice, our nursing school grad, with Walter in 2013 Walter, Nicole, Willow, and Wynn in 2012
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
–Winnie the Pooh