Area Rugs Really Tie The Room Together

My favorite thing in the room is my mother’s blanket, that I take off the bed and wrap around my shoulders to keep warm while I write.


A room is a blank box. But the things I bring to the room turn it into a home, into a safe haven in a world I am newly arrived to—a world I still don’t know if I fully understand. The things I place around the room keep me sane, keep me grounded to my past, my present, and my future. They remind me why I am here and who I am here to make proud.


I came to this country four months ago with only one suitcase. I can’t remember the flight. I can’t remember anything after saying goodbye to my mother at the airport. Such a journey, I expected to commit every detail to heart and mine the experience to its core for years to come. But all that’s between Auckland, New Zealand, and Chicago, USA, in my mind is a broken-hearted blank space.


I’m no minimalist. I’ve always admired such aesthetics but in reality, I’m scared of too much open space. When I moved into my first apartment in Auckland, there wasn’t very much furniture in my room, so I kept my suitcases out, even though I could have stored them away in the cupboard, to make up for what felt like emptiness. On my desk in Chicago is the dreidel Michael made for me, turned in wood with his own hands. He made it when he was still living in Auckland before his wife’s cancer consumed her and he fled to Waihi. Last time I saw him I said we’d see each other again sometime soon, that I’d teach him how to throw pottery and he’d teach me how to turn wood but he seemed doubtful, clearly turning away from the company of all but the dead. Now the dreidel is his continued presence in my life.


My décor is a palimpsest of my experiences. I hoard objects as totems of the people I hold dear. I place them around my room, in just the right spots, and some kind of magic brings each person to life no matter how far away they are from me in space or time.


On the bookshelf is my great-grandfather’s memoir. His family fled Ukraine when he was eight years old. He died before I was born but he left his life to me in pages and pages of stories that my second cousin designed into a PDF and I printed into a book. I furnish my room with a bookshelf, I furnish the bookshelf with this book. The book becomes him, the shelf becomes the vessel for my family’s memories, and suddenly the room becomes home.


Sitting on my shelf is a photograph of my mother and me when I was six, just after a dance recital. Next to it is the woven flax basket Bronte’s mother made for me. In front of that basket is incense given to me by Quishile. I lived with Quishile and Bronte like family before I came to Chicago. When I left New Zealand I left them, but I also brought them with me.


On the windowsill is the Caliente rose plant that my flatmate gave me on the day I moved in. I felt guilty because it looked like it was dying all summer but now that it’s winter it seems to be doing just fine. Next to it is the coleus plant she gave me because I told her about the ones I had back in New Zealand. I often fall into old habits of home. This one grew so much taller than any of the times I grew it in Auckland.


My room is a bed, a desk, a bookshelf, a set of drawers. At first, glance, what you’d see is hardly what you’d call high décor, or even much decorated. Most rooms probably have similar layouts. I could trade mine for yours and not be all too perturbed. But that’s not true. This décor is hard-won. It has been gathered with love and urgency since before I was born. On the bed is the blanket my mother made when she was living in New York thirty years ago. I’m sure it was made out of the cheapest kind of yarn she could find at the time, but it feels soft and like home. I darned the blanket when it started to fray.