One of my closest friends (her name is Carmen) moved away a year ago, and since then we’ve been exchanging videos using the Marco Polo app. In these videos, we talk about everything from Enneagram compatibility to cooking for children (she has four kids ages four through ten), Costco sales to education systems (she teaches French and math–how cool is that?!), politics to dish soap (we’re two blue Dawn diehards on a mission to broaden surfactant horizons). During one of her recent updates, she showed me the new piece of furniture she and her husband had bought to put in their dining room as part of a home improvement project. It was a beautiful piece from Ikea that looked great against the shiplap siding of the room, and she’d organized the kids’ coloring books using magazine holders (we’d recently discussed the phenomenon of PILES of STUFF, and her pet pile at that point happened to be coloring books). She gave me a tour of the sideboard to showcase her newfound organization system, and it ended with her opening the drawer above the cabinet space and saying, “I’m not sure what to put in here yet.”
Hearing these words and seeing that space devoid of anything but possibility blew a thick layer of dust off at least a few neurons while I processed this. An empty drawer! Just think of it: a tridimensional tabula rasa, the gift of space unfilled. My favorite part of moving into a new home (and there aren’t many parts of that process I enjoy) is deciding which kitchen drawer should be used for what. The do-si-do of silverware and dishwasher, the relative utility of utensils, the importance of ensuring omnipresent proximity of the all-purpose scissors and the almighty dishcloth–these are all deciding factors necessary to consider. I take this so seriously, in fact, that last summer I rearranged the contents of all the drawers in the kitchen at the beach house where we were staying because whoever decided that the drawer of menus and magnets should score prime real estate at the kitchen island clearly had never used anything but a microwave to prepare food. This is all to say that that feeling of power, of potential, of the ability to make concrete determinations about how to fill an empty space–and having that space available in the first place–is something I’d been missing but didn’t know it until that moment. The more I thought about it, the more allegorical this all felt and the more sense it made, considering what we’re living through. Life during this pandemic feels like being forced to move into a house we didn’t choose or want or like, a house with no windows and the rooms all wrong. Parenting these days feels like moving into that same house but also with all of the kitchen drawers glued shut. My wish for us all is that we can come upon an empty drawer in our lives, gaze into its beautiful bareness, and pause for minute knowing that it is ours to fill with something, anything, when–and if–we want.