my bedroom at four pm

I’ve come to love four pm’s in my upstairs bedroom. It’s the time each day when the yellow sunlight pours in and soaks the walls with a familiar warmth. It’s dreamlike, really, watching my home get washed in light. Other than the hum of the air conditioning unit outside and the occasional sound of distant airplanes, it’s still and silent. I watch my porch swing sway and dance with the wind, the light casting warm shadows over my bedsheets. And I have this old fig tree in the corner whose leaves have turned brown with the exception of a few. Both the green and the brown leaves are still stretching and reaching for the light. I can’t seem to bring myself to get rid of it even though I know it’s dying — I think I like the persistent hope it carries. Past the tree and outside the window, the kids across the street have just gotten home from school. I hold my afternoon coffee as their father carries the groceries inside from the car. This, too, has become routine. The 4pms are the best times to light the candle on the wooden dresser — it’s the one from home that smells like the lake. It feels right to let that scent fill this space here too. My room has started to smell like home even on the days I forget to light it. I can remember how to breathe now. 

It took longer than I’d hoped it would to call this place home. I decorated the walls with black and white photos of the people that my life has intersected with. People who have impacted the story that I live and write down. I’ve taped pages from old books to cover up blank spaces on the walls. I think my room is a pretty thing to look at — I like it that way. It is the product of a summer spent with my mother before I moved in. Antiques we found from junk stores and curtains made from her painting drop cloths. I decorate the room with dried up eucalyptus and stacks of six years worth of journals next to piles of books I’ve always owned and never read. Dried wildflowers from Colorado hang upside down next to the letters from old friends I’ve gradually lost touch with over time. I fill this space with remnants of memories in an effort to make the space between these four walls become something more of my own.

But this upstairs bedroom hasn’t always been my home. And recently I’ve been turning that word over and over again in my head, searching for a true definition of what “home” really is. Looking for what it means to plant and settle and dwell. If home means shelter, then I’ve made many homes in different places over the years. If it means comfort, then I’ve made my home in a collection of different people too. I’ve found refuge in the spaces that I let form me and cradle me — they offered me some sort of protection and rest. I’ve sought shelter in the steady arms of my father and the laughter of my mother. I’ve searched for it in the eyes of a boy and in the fragile feeling of belonging. It’s easy for me to tie comfort to a place and confuse people as homes. I think I’ve learned that the hard way. Rooting and uprooting. Homes seem to change for me like the seasons. 

My first home was my bedroom in a house that my father built. It was a room with a tall oval window that spilled warm sunlight onto a navy carpet and yellow chair. The walls were painted with ivy vines that stretched to the lofted ceilings that my mother etched into the walls before I was born. It was quiet there. It was safe. I remember it with music boxes and the way my mother used to stroke my head as she sang me to sleep. I grew and filled that space for my first five years before we uprooted and replanted in a city miles away. 

And I found solace there within the yellow splashed walls of my next childhood bedroom, littered with an array of doodles on the backs of scrap pieces of paper and pages torn out of magazines. It was the house with the train that ran through the backyard. I remember the whistle always blowing as it passed in the middle of the night on it’s nightly routine, making the whole house tremble. I would open my eyes in the darkness just enough to see the picture frames on my bedside table rattling and then shut my eyes again to listen to my house rumble. In the dark, it reminded me that I was at home in the house with the train that ran through the backyard. I clung to that feeling — it felt safe. 

But that room reached it’s expiration date too. Soon I was packing my things into boxes and tearing pictures off the yellow walls and shutting the door. Rooting and uprooting. It was a room with green walls and dark stained wooden doors that led to the front porch. A green shag rug and bright pink bathroom. For ten years I filled this space. With each year it felt more and more like home — it somehow became more representative of who I was and who I was becoming. It was the only space I knew that truly belonged to me — I constantly rearranged the furniture, just because I could. When I was eleven I put my bed right smack in the middle of the room. I decorated by walls with anything that I believed held any intrinsic value of pointing to who I was and what I loved. Concert tickets and movie receipts. Written letters and old cameras. I hung my guitars on the wall and filled the empty spaces with pictures of my friends and magazine pages. Something felt right about being able to create a space that echoed who I thought I was. That room felt like it was a part of me, constantly evolving and being rearranged. It became a refuge. A place I’d run to when I wanted to write down my scattered thoughts or create music. My bedspread still has coffee stains and marks from mascara from that July I spent crying over the boy. My bookshelves are still piled with half completed journals of bucket lists that my friends and I made when we were fifteen. But that home too, reached an expiration date. 

I’ve concluded that I’m a collection of the places I’ve filled and the people I’ve filled them with. Home, whatever that may be, while impermanent, is somehow transformative. And this space here between these four walls in the upstairs bedroom is the place I can plant and settle and dwell for today. I like to think that these walls have soaked in the conversations that have happened here. I do think places carry stories too. My story will be etched into the floorboards by me being here — by my feet hitting the ground each morning as i wake up and choose to try again. By me simply filling this space.

And since even the places we designate as homes hold some sort of expiration date, some sort of impermanence, then even this current home is a fleeting part of my being here. It gives this room a deeper beauty to me : this place is my home for now, but it won’t always be. I’ll learn to root and uproot all over again.

And today I will drink my afternoon coffee in the sun soaked room upstairs again. I’ll let myself remember how to breathe again. The candle will flicker, the air conditioning will hum, the swing outside will dance again. And I will turn my face towards the yellow sunlight again — reaching and stretching for warmth, choosing to let myself get washed in the light. 

Ivey Redding