This room is a good room.
We call it the family room, not because it is the room that holds the family most often but because that’s what the builder’s plans called it.
This room is not the living room. The living room is at the front of the house, across from the dining room and both of those rooms share the front door. We use the living room occasionally, but we don’t live in it. No, this is not the living room.
Sometimes I call it that and find myself corrected. Very little living goes on in the living room. We do most of our living, by my estimation in the family room, but what’s in a name anyway?
This room, this family room, is my favorite. Fire place, dark wood floors with a hemp rug, heavy wooden tables, leather furniture — it reminds me of room you’d find in a snowy Vermont lodge or maybe out on some western ranch overlooking a purple mountain’s majesty.
We eat pizza in this room. We watch TV and movies in this room. We play games in this room. We talk and plan in this room. I’ve lain on this sofa, fever stricken and half comatose eating saltine crackers and watching The Walking Dead. My daughter has done the same only it was cartoons or Pretty Little Liars. She loved the old couch that now sits in the basement; her “sick couch” she calls it and she was none to pleased when it got transferred. Sick days have never been the same for her since.
This room has seen declarations of war and the brokering of delicate peace. From this room you can watch someone look for pickles in the fridge; or make an egg at the stove; or rummage through drawers seeking the one calculator that works but finding instead expired medication, a shoelace and some playing cards.
On quiet days the washer can be heard spinning its unbalanced load in the laundry room below. On not so quiet days you can hear my daughter on the floor above with lead feet plodding from her bathroom, through our bedroom and into our bathroom. “What is she in our room for,” one of us will ask. When we hear the hair dryer running we know what the little thief has made off with.
I drink tea and occasionally write in this room. My wife sits by the fire reading her library book. The dog naps. Where is the cat? Eventually, he will find his way here and into someone’s lap. This is the family room and we are, after all, one family.
Something astonishing happened the other night, a verbally loud and physically violent turn of events that made my wife apologize to my daughter for having to witness the massive dysfunction that pollutes our extended family. We drove away in stunned silence through the cold rain, none of us really knowing what to think or say. We continued on with our errands buying my daughter some running shoes she needed and then went to one of our favorite restaurants after that. As we entered from the mall parking garage my daughter turned, hugged my wife and said, “At least we have each other.”
Pretty wise for a fifteen year old. She was right — we do. That’s really all any person truly needs — people who enhance each day with their presence.
And as long as we have each other, we will have a “family room”. A solid and sturdy room that can hold all of our loudness and our silence, our glorious wins and each tragic loss, our sorrows and our joys. I am grateful for a room like this, not everyone is so lucky. This place is ours. We’re in charge of what happens here; who enters, who stays, who goes — it is all up to us.
We’ve worked hard to build such a room. We’ve taken chances to have the privilege to sit here, live here, love here and at times hate here. A room like this does’t happen by luck alone. No it takes will and persistence, it takes imagination and vision, it takes work. You can’t just order it up online. You can’t have someone design it for you.
So when the grape soda stains the carpet, or pizza grease drips on the new leather, or a new scratch graces the reclaimed wood coffee table, remember it’s yours and you own it scratches, dents, stains and all.
Yep, this is good room. A very good room.