The state of Tabasco. © Ruth Lopez
The census taker who is collecting data for a building survey calls at the appointed time and we talk for an hour. Even though I agreed to this interview, I'm grumpy. Having used census material for research, I know how valuable it is and how not-personal any of the questions are and yet, having to say things out loud, like what my income is or the amount of rent I pay, feels like an invasion of privacy. I would probably feel this way no matter what the circumstances and the call takes so long because I begin verbalizing all of my concerns about privacy and fears about the future to this hapless individual, who, as it turns out, is on the same page and living with similar uncertainty and has taken on this job as a temp worker. The human steps out from behind the machine.
I'm asked the following question: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, how would you rate your home? Without hesitation I say "6." The interviewer, who has managed not to editorialize up to this point says, "That's interesting." I don't ask why she thinks that because the phone survey is already taking too long. The question, and my easy answer, holds a level of brainstorming truth, but what exactly are all the things that I want in a home that I don't have? What is it about being in this space that makes me feel just a slight notch above indifference?
Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness, "Our love of home is in turn an acknowledgement of the degree to which our identity is not self-determined. We need a home in the psychological sense as much as we need one in the physical: to compensate for a vulnerability...We need our rooms to align us to desirable versions of ourselves and to keep alive the important, evanescent sides of us."
I'm not sure I agreed with him completely until now. On Saturday, I emptied out my office in order to do a deep clean and then return furniture and objects that have been dusted, cleaned, edited. I want less stuff and I want order. It's time to create a space that is not only functional, but that I can admire as I do beautiful spaces and design. As the census interview revealed this morning, I have lived in this space for 12 years. That's an eternity considering my nomadic past. One factor for settling in: 75 boxes of books and three flights of stairs.I was not moving again until I had found my home, my true home. And when I reduce my library by half. I'm seven years past what I thought would be a long time ... Specifically, here are the reasons my home is a six and not a ten: Lack of outdoor space (I want a garden). Crappy, shallow tub (I want to be able to take a long soak). I want real closets & a washer/dryer & built-in bookcases for all my books. I want wooden planks for flooring in the kitchen instead of cracked linoleum & I want tile floors in the bathroom and I want a real bathroom and a roof deck and great appliances, not a rental quality refrigerator and stove. I want a Viking stove, a Smeg refrigerator, a pantry, a back porch that doesn't feel like it is going to collapse, a tiled mosaic entry way of maybe Medusa or some other goddess, but of course with a sly twist that only the most astute will notice. Is that all? For now.