I was about 6 years old when I arrived.
I remember my grandfather, soon to be called "pop", holding my hand as I approached the front steps of my new house. I had only just met him a handful of times, but in that moment, where I had been the last 6 years didn't matter. I was so nervous my stomach was doing the all too familiar flips, and I remember finding solace in how warm and heavy his hand felt on mine.
My step-grandmother was waiting for us behind the screen door. I could faintly make out her shape as I peered through the screen, anxiously waiting to clearly make out a face of a woman who wanted me.
Pop stopped me just before the door would open. He turned me so that I faced him, squatted low, and looked into my eyes. I had yet to be that close to him, and even though I didn’t know him, I felt like I did in that moment. Everything around me went silent, making his next words to me last a lifetime.
“Jena, listen to me now. You see this house? You see this door? This is your home now. YOUR home. This is where you are going to sleep, where you are going to wake-up. No one is ever going to take you away from here. Ever. This is your house now, and you’ll never have to leave. Do you understand?"
I understood. Every word. And my heart felt like it was exploding. And my fingers were sweaty still buried deep in his bear paw. And my legs itched to run inside, away from anything more that could threaten my happily ever after. I was open, ready, waiting to immediately replace my broken heart with this elusive promise of home.
The screen door finally swung open. Everything was in slow motion. My new mom’s smile took up her whole face. The sun streamed in through the glass slider filling up the entire front living area, and I could clearly see the bright greenery in the backyard. They both led me down a hallway, and I floated into my new room.
Navy blue wall paper. Large pink and white floral designs on the top half of the wall, neatly separated by a white trim border. The bottom of the wall was papered with a sweet and delicate polka dot pattern. The white furniture and gauzy curtains were like pure magic to this room fit for a princess. I couldn’t believe I was this lucky, I couldn’t believe I was finally the girl in the fairytales. Because, I mean… Look. At. This. Room.
My caregivers kept their promises, and they became my parents. I listened to my first CD in that room, had numerous rock collections in that room. Was grounded to that room, had month long summer slumber parties with my new cousins in that room. I told my mom about my first friend in that room, cried myself to sleep in that room. Filled out college applications in that room, made the decision to enlist in the military in that room. In the summer of 2002, I packed it all up and I left that room.
When I became pregnant with my first child, my husband and I immediately decided we needed to move. We lived in a beautiful once in a lifetime high-rise studio with a view and although it broke our hearts, a larger space for baby was mandatory. By the time we had found our new roomier(ish) pad, baby girl was almost here and my nest-feathering skills had yet to kick into overdrive. Baby showers came and went, people asking me the colors and the theme of the nursery-and I was totally ashamed. A theme? I couldn’t believe that after all this time, I still didn’t have a plan. I did know some things, though, and they were mostly made up of surface things I didn’t want. I didn’t want it to be cluttered. I didn’t want it to be baby pink. I didn’t want it to be too modern (ie. an IKEA nursery) but I didn’t want to spend too much, either. And that's pretty much where my design ideas ended.
After our baby shower, my in-laws had us over for dinner; a traditional Persian meal of kabob, lavash bread, grilled onions and tomatoes. We overstuffed ourselves like usual, and as I was walking up and down the hallway trying to keep from popping, my father-in-law pointed to the ground and asked me which of the two Persian rugs they were saving as a gift to the baby did we like the best. I couldn’t believe my ears, and even before I really looked at them, I knew instantly that this is what I had been waiting for. Love overwhelmed my heart; our firstborn’s room was going to be built around the rug I chose.
To be honest, I recall only seeing just one of the two rugs. It was navy blue, with intricate white, pink and cranberry floral designs woven throughout. There was something about the large grey and white flowers wrapping around the rugs edges that sparked the feelings of my childhood room and finally, for the first time, I started to dream about holding my little girl.
I could really see her. Her image in my arms was so foreign, yet so special, I wasn’t ready yet to be distracted from all the big feels waiting for me. That evening in the safety of my husband’s childhood home, I let myself dream about our baby and about being the mom I never thought I would be. I envisioned us in her room, her tiny head on my shoulder and my lips barely touching the top of her forehead for fear her reverie would leave me. The sun was streaming through the windows, and as I sat and rocked her, the mindfulness of that beautiful moment shifted to the future and all the hopes I had for this little person coming into our lives.
I hoped she already knew that I loved her; that I needed her. I hoped that as she toddled across her beautiful rug toward her dad and I (albeit in the cloth diaper I never ended up using) that when she would inevitably fall, she would do it with the freedom in her heart that belongs only to those who are kept.
I hoped that as she pushed her growing body up to keep going, the beauty and tradition in the rug beneath her fingers would bury deep in her mind- ready to be reflected upon in the moments of life when it would be much easier to ignore.
I hoped as she spent time evolving outside of the blue, white and pink security of her room, that if she ever found herself lost in this uncertain world, she could always find her way back to her keepers.
On May 27, 2014 at 9:36pm our first daughter Mila Rö was born. Much different than what I had imagined, her father held her as he walked her into her finished room for the first time. As I drug a bag full of hospital stuff behind him, I looked up and experienced a moment I wasn’t able to hope for until then. I saw him cradling her and touching his lips to her tiny forehead and as he began to talk to her- I let the years of uncertainty, fear and displacement spill out of me. His whispered promises to her filled the brokenness in my heart, and as I slumped down to the floor tears rolling down my face, his arms wrapped around us both.
There, with all three of us huddled on Mila’s little rug, I finally found myself home.
Publicly chronicling my design grind, mamahood madness + mini narratives of how I make sense of it all was never something I thought I would do; but when your passion in life for creating + relating are also your personal gateways to peace + sanity, you've got to go somewhere with all of the things!
My name is Jená + this is the blog
Rö & Westing