I got an e-mail from L the other day. As with me, she finds herself in the dubious position of living in her parents’ basement. She has been there for a few months, now, and she’s starting to wonder what kind of effect it’s having on her. In times like this, you turn to others who have been through a similar experience for advice, hence the e-mail I got. Since I constantly ramble on about “living in the basement,” she wanted to know how it’s affected me and even how it’s changed me. It’s something I had never really thought of before. In order to fully understand it, I had to go back to the beginning. I had to go back to the time when I did have my own room, and the occurrence that had it taken from me.
When I was 4 years old, there was a momentous occasion in the Cappis household: the birth of my sister. Now, for the most part, this was a sense of joy throughout the family, but for me, it had a bit of a dark side. For you see, my brother’s bedroom had been converted into the nursery, and my brother was made to move into my room. The next eight years saw my brother and I sharing a room just slightly smaller than the one I have now. It brought us closer, it drove both of us crazy, all that good stuff when people are made to share an enclosed space. And then, in the months before my twelfth birthday, another momentous occasion occurred. We moved. Finally, I would again have my own room. I’ll never forget that first night in the basement. The walls were bare plywood. There was no carpet yet, just a cold concrete floor. I didn’t even have a door. But that didn’t matter. All that mattered was it was MINE. Finally, after all this time, a room that was MINE.
Of course, as the summer of 1989 dragged on, I added little touches to assert that this space was mine. I got carpet. The bare plywood was soon covered with posters; some old (some leftover He-Man and Transformers ones from my swiftly ending childhood) and some new (I had just become a trekkie, and searched Edmonton hi and lo until I found a Star Trek V movie poster). The lack of a door did start to bother me after a few months, so Mom made a curtain to cover the doorway. I finally got a full-blown door in 1992. Oh, you don’t know the simple pleasure of closing your door until you don’t have one to close. As time grew, I came to love my little room. It didn’t matter that it was in a basement. It didn’t matter that, under the posters, it was just bare plywood. It didn’t matter that I could see the underside of the living room floor. It was MINE. MY space. MY sanctum. MY room.
And then, the great move to university came. My room was still my room in principle. I still had a lot of stuff, so that’s where the excess was stored. I still slept there whenever I came home. But it was starting to feel different. The less time I spent there, the less it was feeling like my room. Where I lived in 2nd East, then Moi, then Marken (Mark’s in Marken, oh that made my sister laugh), that was my room now. With these new rooms, of course, came new rules. There could be no loud music after nine. You had to share a bathroom with your next door neighbor. But I could live with those rules. At the end of the day, it was still MINE.
May of 1999 came, and I had no plans as to where to go next. So, I went back to Entwistle, and that corner in the basement that was my room. But, it wasn’t mine anymore. The posters didn’t cover up all the bare plywood anymore. The underside of the living room floor was starting to hurt my eyes. It wasn’t mine anymore. As much as I tried to make it mine again, it felt cramped. I didn’t have as much room as I had in university. And that was the rub. I didn’t want A room anymore. I wanted MORE room.
There are many things that come with living in the basement. Most notable are parents. With parents come rules, because, when all is said and done, it’s their house. In university, I never took off my shoes. When I wanted to go somewhere, I’d go. At home, I have to take off my shoes because I’ll mess up Mom’s carpet if I don’t. It I want to go somewhere, it’s “Where are you going? When will you be back? When did you get a life?” At first, it was a little difficult to comprehend. I had to live with rules when I was at university. These were the exact same rules I had to live with before university. Why should they be bothering me now? Those who own the room make the rules.
That’s what it comes down to. I’ve always had just a room. A room in someone else’s home. And it’s starting to become painfully obvious of what it really is: a cold basement. I don’t want a basement anymore. I don’t want a room to call MINE anymore. What I want is MY kitchen, MY living room, MY bathroom, MY bedroom. MY room doesn’t cut it anymore. I want a place where I can make MY rules. I don’t want a room in someone else’s home. I want MY home.
Right next to my room in the basement is the empty remains of my sister’s room. It’s bigger than mine, and I’ve been tempted to move into it. But I don’t. As much as I would like to have more room, I know that it would start to make me comfortable. And that’s a dangerous thing. As long as I’m still in the smallest room in the house, I’ll be tripping over things, knocking things over, and always cramped. I’ll always be just that little bit uncomfortable. And it’s that tiny bit of uncomfort that’ll drive me out someday. To MY home.
There was a time when this little corner of the basement was my sanctum; my refuge from the cruelties of the world. But now, it is just another of the cruelties. As the boxes keep piling up and the walls appear to grow closer together, what was my room starts to feel more like a cell. In some ways, it’s a negative thing, as it makes me just that much more bitter towards my life and those around me. But then, it’s also a positive thing. I am fully capable of making my own decisions. The more it makes me uncomfortable, the more I desire to move out. In a way, it’s motivational.
I finished writing this up, and sent it off to L. I was also sure to thank her, as this topic would make for a great column. Living in the basement has effected me. But it’s for the better. I will escape from this prison, someday. Someday, I will have more than a room to call my own. Someday, you will all be welcome in MY home.