“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Star ship Enterprise.” So starts the story of Star Trek’s Next Generation. We learn that the Enterprise is large and prosperous. Each character seems to have some private space for quarters. Over this past 20 months moving from one location to another and sometimes returning to one after having moved out for a few weeks to accommodate vacation rentals, we have learned that space of your very own is hard to find and hard to comprehend the meaning of.
In this tiny cruise ship apartment in the basement of our as yet unfinished house we each have little pockets of space. Sometimes the space is my pocket during one time of day and my spouses’ during a different time of the day. In the 1980s, we lived for 8 years in a condo only slightly larger than this.
We learned then and are reminded now that you never bring something in the door that does not already have a place. You make compromises in what you have. You use the same things over and over. You repurpose items hourly to save the space of having two.
A cup left on the counter is not just a cup left on the counter. It is a dirty kitchen. Laundry in a small space without direct access to laundry facilities translates to trying not to get your clothes dirty.
As I have noted before, what we have and what we have lost are the possessions of a rich and prosperous family. What we had the day of the fire far exceeded the possessions of individuals in more than half of the world. Living in our small space, with all of our riches, reminds us of the unique interaction between stuff and space and people.
Living in this small space shows us how much we have acquired in the way of replacement items from the fire. We have not replaced our deeply loved antiques. Those were collected over so many years and at prices that now far eceede what we can pay for them. We do have some.
Like O’Henry’s story The Gift of the Magi, we have sought out things we thought the other would treasure. In the story, it is Christmas and the young couple want to give each other meaningful gifts. The young man has a watch he treasures and the young lady has beautiful hair. In the end she cuts her hair to get him a watch fob and he sells his watch to buy ribbons for her hair. In our searching the pathos has not been so strong but there have been times when we echo that story. The first Christmas after the fire each of us found an overshot coverlet and gave it to the other.
So, like the Enterrprise, we voyage into an unknown realm. We are trying to learn the meaning of space.We have been thrust into learning to inhabit other’s space as we learned this new post-wildfire version of ourselves. Learning who we are has required separating ourselves from the things of others. From the 6,000 sq ft frozen-in-time 1974 hourse, to ski condos we moved in and out of at to accommodate holiday schedules to hotels to family, we learned that we were not defined by others’ space.
We are here in our own space now. We are learning to define ourselves by the space we envisioned when we designed the house. Perhaps it is good that we are starting by learning to inhabit this small space before learning to inhabit the large one. We will learn because it means so much to us having had no home of our own, large or small for nearly two years.