As a tiny girl growing up in Minnesota, our third grade teacher had the tradition of inviting her class over to her house for the day. I believe that we piled in to the school bus, brought our lunches with us, and went to her house during the school day. Mrs. Owens’ home had pretty white siding, and a picket fence and lots of flowers. We saw her backyard, which had a magical tree swing. We ate our lunches under a big tree.The kitchen was warm, inviting. We were all on our best behavior, in those early weeks of school when you want to make a good impression on your new teacher, and don’t quite know all of the kids in the class. There are new friendships, new clothes, lots of nerves and anxiety.
The most amazing part of the house was her daughter’s room. Nestled in the alcoves of the top floor, with dormers and shuttered windows that looked out over trees that were just starting to change colors, her daughter’s room felt as if it probably had a family of singing mice that lived in the wall (an enchanting thought to me, I loved Disney’s movie “The Rescuers.”) She had a beautiful quilt, a white bookshelf full of books, and hardwood floors. I remember being one of the last children allowed up to see her daughter’s room, one of the last to climb the old stairs, and felt like I did not have enough time to take it all in. I wanted to stand in her little walk-in closet and pretend that this was my room.
Later, much later, I went to grad school in Connecticut, and lived in the residence halls there. There at Yale Divinity School, I found a similar sense of enchantment in a space. My room looked out over a main street, lined with big trees, old floors, and a sense of history and scholarship that emanated from the desk, the little built in bookshelf and dresser. It was a place that felt like home, that had a sense of community built in, that became even more endearing as the seasons changed. Having most recently lived in California, I loved changing leaves, the silence of the first snow storm there. While I never discovered any singing mice, it was nice to live in that room for a year, to make it mine, to experience the life that came with that place.