Tag Archives: Virginia Woolf

WISDOM Wednesday: “A Room of My Own?” Part One

This story was written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

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In 1929, the writer Virginia Woolf published an extended essay entitled, “A Room of One’s Own.” Without digging too far into the actual content, philosophy or critique of this collection of lectures, the idea of having “A Room of One’s Own” in which to pursue one’s interests has taken some shape for many generations of women in our family. Many of the women in my grandmothers’ generation had a room of one’s own…

virginia woolf

Each one of these women “owned” the kitchen. Make no doubt about it. When they were cooking, we stayed away… serious creative business, cooking. Only my grandfather and uncle, professional chefs in their own right, were allowed to peek into these castles of dominion. The commoners: kids, young moms and dads, had to stay away – far away. When the meal was prepared and ready for presentation, we were summoned.

One of my grandmothers was a potter, then a glazer, then a jewelry artist. On her land was not just a room of one’s own. She had an entire building dedicated to her artistic pursuits. It was called her pottery house: A little two room cottage, with plenty of windows, Dutch-doors on both ends, wheels, kilns, shelves of all sorts of potions – or so it seemed to me. I think they were actually chemicals she mixed to develop different glazes for her work. In her of jewelry making era, much of the equipment was re-purposed for creating molds for melting gold. This was more than a “room of one’s own.” This was an alchemist’s studio.

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One of my female relatives had no need for a room of one’s own. What she did need, however, was closet space. Lots and lots of closet space for her lots and lots of dresses — First, she filled the walk-in closet that covered the length of her master bedroom. Then, as each of her children left the nest, she swept in hawk-like and claimed their closet as her own. Comically, when she retired and had an entire home of her own, she still needed more closet space than the house could bear. I once measured 16-1/2 feet of additional over-the-door hangers for her clothes… Creativity seems to take many forms.

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"A Room of My Own?” Part Two

  This story was written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

. . .  Part Two . . .

I never had what could be called a room of one’s own. I use to feel cheated by this.
When I was a young, accomplished, award-winning seamstress, the only space in which I could work was my family’s living room. I would spread out my patterns, fabrics  (yards and yards of wools, satins, velvets) scissors and pins across the living room floor. When the cutting was complete, I’d gather all the myriad pieces of a soon-to-be evening gown, cocktail dress or coat into a careful pile, carry it away in a box and clean the room for public use. I’d transport it all to the sewing machine in my mother’s room; sew for a few hours then, clean up again. I’d store all stages of my sewing projects on the foot of my bed; drag it out again, day after day, until the project was done.
I loved the time I had no room but a house full of kids. They were everywhere; their stuff was everywhere; their friends were everywhere. Oh yes, their cats, dogs, bunnies and birds were everywhere also.
I was there too, without the coveted room of one’s own. When they were very young, their dad and I often had to leave the master bedroom because the bed was filled with our kids. Dad had a great idea, however, and built small beds at the foot and sides of the master bed so each child could be near us, but in their own “nest.”  …. Nope, this was definitely not a room of one’s own.
As the kids got older, although their dad and I divorced, we decided to have one house in which the kids would live. He and I would come and go. The kids wouldn’t have to schlep their stuff back and forth to each parent’s house on odd weekdays or alternate weekends. The divorced parents rotated, not the kids. Their environment remained stable for them…. Oh yes, when I vacated the house every other weekend and Dad came in, I’d empty “my” room and he’d take over…. Yes indeed, still, no room of one’s own.
Now my kids are grown. I have not just a room of one’s own. I have an entire house. I even have my own master bedroom with attached bathroom. I don’t share any room with anyone… At last, what I thought I always wanted has come to fruition. I have the ever-desired room of one’s own! Actually, I have lots and lots of rooms of my own!
But wait…. I recently realized something is missing… I only had to ask myself once, “What is missing?” The answer came quickly. What is missing is the family of my youth, with sisters and brothers tumbling around the rooms like puppies falling out of a basket. The family of my adulthood is missing too: kids and kids’ friends, pets, activity, noise, music, barking, laughter, giggling, phones constantly ringing. Did I miss anything? Probably… there’s a lot missing.
What I thought was so important all my life, a room of one’s own, is not actually something I want after all.  For me, all this space leaves a void. I don’t really care for it. Not one little bit.
I’ve decided, Ii’s time for me to fill up the void with new pets and small clusters of friends. Also, whenever possible (not just on holidays), I’m going to invite over my brother and sister. And, although they are scattered all over the world, I’m going to create new traditions so my almost-launched kids, and their friends, come over for gatherings — filling the rooms with familiar laughter, chatting, and witty interchange.
                                                                                                    
For me, a room full of love and energy is much more satisfying than a room of one’s own.