Four walls, a base and a lid. You can hammer a box together pretty quickly if your materials are cut to size. And that's what a house is. A box. They are divided up, given sections and levels. We allocate space to different people within the box. Sometimes family members, sometimes friends. Sometimes we pay money for the right to inhabit a certain section of the box.
Boxes. The idea became important to me 5 years ago.
That day I woke up before the sun rose and pulled on the backpack I'd prepared the night before. It was filled with lightweight travelling clothes. I wasn't a homey type then, I moved around alot, and was well equipped with metalicus tops, the type you can rinse and wring out and leave to dry over a chair in your room. I stood at the bus-stop shivering, the thin cotton shirt under my jacket not enough for Bologna's infamous clammy morning air. There was a train to Milan, a bus to Bergamo and a long wait for the delayed flight to Valladolid that gave me time to have breakfast and try to cure the ache behind my eyes with a few extra espressos.
My tights were itchy when I arrived in Spain's desert-like core. I waited for him with my Jacket folded over my arm, and scanned for him in the crowd. He found me first and appeared in front of me like a Jack-in-the-Box grinning and laughing and lifting me in a bear hug. We took a taxi into the city and it parked outside the historical marketplace. I made some comment about how Spanish Spain was. He pointed out all the spanish things. Spanish arquitecture, Spanish woman, Spanish car, Spanish mailbox, then he took me upstairs to the apartment he was renting a friend's room in.
The ceilings were impossibly high, there were ancient wooden floorboards underfoot, and the walls were freshly painted in white off which this magic light here just bounces. A double mattress on the floor neatly dressed in red bedclothes. A piece of wood balanced on two carpenter's horses against the wall as a make-shift desk. All his documents could fit into a black ring-binder. A music stand and a chair seating his black accordian. I felt like that room was the most beautiful bohemian space I'd ever seen, and that I was the luckiest person in the world to be invited there.
That modest room was all we started with. It was where it all began.
The next place was the same style, in much worse condition and we rented the whole box for ourselves. It served as an interim nest though which we braved an entire winter in the rooms where the wind whistled through cracks in the huge glass windows, and the traffic streaming over the bridge threatened to crash through our living room window. And the sirens...
We filled it with the furniture we found on the street and at the second hand depot in the city's outskirts. We never got rid of the smell of the previous owner's Husky and the 2 litters of puppies she had birthed in one of the rooms.
When we began the search for a new place, we eventually found it around the corner. We looked up one afternoon and saw the sign in the window on the old brick building's third floor. More of the same. sky- high ceilings, bright white walls, beautiful wooden floors. The original fireplace in the lounge room. Cheap rent. It became ours. We filled it with our collections. Mounted a bookcase from recycled wood against one of the walls. Cooked endless dinners for friends and family. My Dad cooked a turkey in the fireplace at Christmas. We Lovingly mopped the floors and filled the rooms with the scent of burning lavendar oil. Our bedroom moved around. Coco was thought up in one room, conceived in another, born at the foot of the bed in yet another. She might think this apartment is the whole world, I remember thinking when she was one week old, and Salva and I finally shuffled down the 3 flights of stairs to take her to the registry and get her birth certificate. She was wrapped up tightly on her Papas chest, and I lifted the hood of her tiny jacket to protect her soft cheeks from the cold wind, her little ears from the noise of the city. I thought it again at 6 weeks when we stayed overnight in Madrid for the first time. I expected her to be unsettled, sleeping away from her own nest. Again I worried when we went to Italy for 2 months over the summer.
But she doesn't know what a home is, and if she does, she knows it has nothing to do with the box she was born in. She barely notices her surroundings. In the 8 months she's been on earth she's alternated between clinging to us for dear life, and relishing in life's beautiful details. The button on my shirt. The soft percussion of the macbook's keyboard. The yellow rubber ducky that squirts her in the face if she squeezes it in her chubby hands.
When we take her to the new place, she might notice that its floor has a different taste.
She knows that home is where we are. It is. But I love this place. So much has happened here. This place is a boxful of memories.