“He’s going off to college, is he?” The cashier at Target asked me after I explained to her that all the boxes of frozen chicken sandwich sliders were for my son who would eat them at every meal if I let him, and that I was stocking up because I couldn’t find them in my local supermarket.
“Oh, gosh, no!” I exclaimed, but as I glanced at the rest of the merchandise she was scanning, I could see how she’d come to that conclusion: sheet set, tension rod, curtain, clock radio, cleaning wipes …
“He’s only seven. He’s just moving into his own room.”
“Oh, he is, is he?”
“Yeah, he’s taking over the “man cave.”
And it is a cave. It’s a room in our unfinished basement, where a spaghetti diagram of original wiring — from the time that wiring was first invented (yes, our house is that old) — is tangled behind the current cables, wires, and telephone lines which snake through the tree-trunk ceiling beams (some of which still sport bark).
Sure, most of the cement wall was painted and we’d put a rug with an ample pad underneath it over the cement floor. We’d also vacuumed up all the cobwebs. There was a futon bunk bed and a papasan chair in front of the circa 1980s coffee-table sized TV to complete the furnishings. The TV is only set up for Wii — no cable, no DVDs, and no Netflix, even though rumor has it you can use a Wii for the latter two.
My youngest had begun sleeping down there from time to time during the summer. It was naturally cool in our otherwise non-centrally air-conditioned home. I am sure the novelty of the new bunk bed and sports-themed pillows and blankets was a factor, as was the proximity of the chest freezer where the freeze pops and Italian ice are stashed. Occasionally one of his brothers would join him, but he was the only regular.
One day he asked if he could move his room down there. He had been sharing a room with one or both brothers for most of his life.
“Maybe, honey,” I stalled. How would that work if anyone else wanted to use the room?
Time passed, and he brought it up again.
I put him off, “Well, I guess we can see about that.” Would he really be okay that far away from the rest of us? His brothers would be two floors away, I’d be three.
Finally, “Can we move my bureau downstairs this weekend, Mom?”
“Okay, honey. Yes, we can.” I relented. Apparently moving was more than a whim.
After two nights in his new room and confirming that he’d slept well and liked his new clock radio and that the cat didn’t bother him, I asked, “So, what was the main reason you wanted to move downstairs?”
“I just wanted privacy, Mom.”
I was slightly taken aback. At his age? I imagined that if anyone wanted privacy, it would have been one of his middle-school-aged brothers. However, I recalled when one of them was a toddler, he’d demanded, while banging with his little fists on the outside of the closed bathroom door, “But I want privacy, too!” at my refusal to open the door. And while neither of my older two have an open-door policy with the bathroom today, they still do with their bedrooms, preferring togetherness over solitude.
“I understand completely, honey. Everyone needs his or her own space.” Whether it’s a few minutes alone or a room of one’s own, privacy is one thing you just can’t share.