Welcome to day 3 of my weekly writing challenge. The challenge today is to explore the room you’re in as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Pretend you know nothing. What do you see? Who is the person who lives there?
There are two couches in this room: one brown leather, the one I’m sitting on, and the other green and not leather couch. On the green, not leather couch are two camera bags, and an umbrella in its case. A tripod leans recklessly against the front of the couch, looking like it fell after a boozy night out and couldn’t be bothered shifting position. A beanie and a cap sit on the arm of the couch closest to the wall. Happily, the green couch folds out into a bed. It comes in handy when the children come to stay, particularly when those children bring their own children to visit.
Double doors open onto the room from the hallway. One door is propped open with an exclamation mark, a gift from Debbie. Behind the opened door is a small black desk with the sorts of things small black desks generally accumulate: a gas bill, a CD case, an empty envelope, some electronic gadgetry. In front of the small black desk is a big black swivel chair. A tall lamp stands guard in the corner. A black cupboard with a camera bag on it is squeezed into the space between the small black desk and the green, but not leather, couch.
A little bookshelf crammed with books, a torch, an empty water bottle and some bubble wrap is pushed against the wall between the couch and the TV. The TV was quite obviously bought with a different room in mind. To its left is a glass window and a door that leads into the back garden, the sun filtering through the leaves of liquid amber just outside the door. Today there is no warmth in the sun.
The gas heater, an obligatory adornment in Melbourne homes of a certain age, fits between the glass door with sunlight filtering through it, and the other glass door – the one on the other side that is behind the curtain because the curtain keeps some of the cold out. Or that’s the theory.
I sit on the brown leather couch and behind me is another, bigger bookshelf filled with books, the latest batch of school photos, a glass owl from English Cousin Tom, a glass ‘coaster’ from Venice I bought as a memento of my trip, the glass bird that Pervis gave me as a graduation present, and some Dr Seuss looking vases we bought in New Zealand. There’s also an old tablet we’ve turned into an electronic photo frame. I can spend hours watching the various images cycle through, wondering how Izzy will change between now and when I’ll see her again, marvelling at how much Lincoln has changed in just a few months, laughing at Ronan’s cheeky smile, remembering the way Jordy hugged me the last time he was here, shaking my head at Sakye reading her book to the puppies as they sit on the recliner watching her carefully, lingering over the photo of Dad, Ben and Toi – three generations eating ice-cream and strawberries together in quiet familiarity, laughing at Lily as she hangs upside down in Chase’s arms for a family portrait and laughing more at the look on Hunter’s face as he takes in the delight that is his little sister. I marvel at all these children and grandchildren and feel blessed that they’re in my life.
A small table, big enough for two to eat at, is pushed into a corner, placemats that Michelle and Al gave us littered across it, three or four battery chargers plugged in to a power board sending leads curling crazily across the table. A newly arrived book, The visual toolbox: 66 lessons for stronger photographs, lays in wait for Tim to dip into and then share what he’s learnt with me. The door to the kitchen is closed in an attempt to keep the warmth in this room, but it’s a vain attempt. It isn’t warm.
A big crocheted blanket Mum made for me lays across the back of the brown leather couch and as the sun gets lower and the cold deepens, I’ll spread it across my knees like grannies have done since crocheted blankets were invented. In front of the brown leather couch is a brown leather ottoman, with my feet resting comfortably on it. There is music playing from a number of speakers scattered around the room, a Spotify playlist for a chilled afternoon. It seemed fitting.
On the arm of the couch to my right is a Kindle in a red case, a list of rhyming words Sakye wrote out one morning two weeks ago when I shared her bedroom, and a book called Lost Melbourne that Tim bought home yesterday in celebration of the last even day of May. Resting on the book is a rapidly cooling cup of tea. The little wooden table on my right is piled with books with titles like Teacher identity discourses, New questions for contemporary teachers, Teaching selves, and The art of conversation. Oh, and there’s one novel at the bottom of the pile: Nell Zink’s The wallcreeper. I still don’t know if I liked it. I need to read it again, but I seriously think that I’m just too old for it. Not hip enough or something.
On the walls are photographs Tim and I have taken, some framed, some canvas prints; artworks by Lisa Roberts and Katy Woodroffe, and above the television is a reminder, a gift from Alison, to think outside the box.
Who lives here? People who read, take photos, learn, listen to music. Ordinary people with ordinary lives.
Scrolling through the photo frame and thinking about the number of items in this room that were gifts from others, you discover that these ordinary people are part of something bigger – connected to others in far-off places, people who smile and laugh and talk quietly with each other; people who are connected by long, loose lines; people who get together only intermittently but who feel a fizz of warm familiarity and connection when they do.
What do you see when you look around your room? Who lives there?