Preface: This story is semi autobiographical based on true events.
I sit here in a room that has seen so much, a room that has become so many things to us in just one year. Our Everything Room. The fresh spring air flows in, the song of birds flowing with it, entwining in the serene blue waters of life. I’ve been saving my cherry blossom soy candle for a special occasion, and I believe finally telling my story is the time. The semi new scent brings back memories of realised fairy-tales and my mind wanders to images I hope I will never forget.
I’m going to tell you the story of us, I’ve named us Mae and Nile for this tale, although our names really don’t matter, but this is a story of a year in our history that I hope will live on, even when I don’t.
The year starts on December 25th, as most years… don’t. Many European countries celebrate Christmas on the 24th, but in the UK every family has different traditions that span the whole of Christmas Day, featuring, of course, food. We personally tuck into ours at around 2pm.
On this festive day in 2019, 2pm displayed our Dining Room full. Full of people, full of chatter, full of warmth and love. The epitome of family at Christmas, right? For a room that usually had just the two of us, sometimes with the addition of a couple of couples, I was impressed how we’d squeezed everyone in. Me and Nile were sat on modern looking shoe boxes. But that’s just another feature of the season, using undesired objects as chairs…
“So are you all ready for the wedding?” A hush of hunger fell over the room as Nile’s dad sliced the vegan roast.
Nile took a slice, “thanks Dad, we still have quite a bit to do, but we have a plan don’t we Mae, my queen of organisation,” he ended affectionately.
I beamed in response. By this point I beamed every time a wedding was mentioned, mine or not. “We’ve got the invites to finalise, plus the rooms, you guys want to stay don’t you?” I continued before anyone could halt my flow. “The bridesmaid dresses will need altering, along with my final dress fitting! I’m so excited. April 11th seems so close but so far!”
“You’ve still got your hen do before then,” my Mum adds.
“Her two hen dos don’t you mean?” Nile jokes. “Of course my princess gets two!”
I pout! “Alright, no teaming up on me!”
Our Dining Room was lucky enough to have a few more hours of company and several more courses before everyone retired upstairs to the lounge, which also struggled to fit the masses. Me and Nile tidied up together as we always did. Squeaking the glass table clean and picking up left over cracker hats from the floor.
Nile gazed out of the double doors into our neat little garden, “d’you think we’ll ever get snow on Christmas?” he sighed.
I slipped my arms around him, “Next year let’s go somewhere snowy for Christmas! Super cosy with a fire.”
“Deal,” his resolution didn’t waver as he turned around to kiss me.
New Year’s 2020, “New Year New Me” is overused on Instagram photos. “Bring on 2020!”
No one really knew what they were asking for though. If you’d have shown them a flip book of 2020, you would have had cries in response; “don’t bring it on, don’t bring it on!” People were never going to appreciate the challenge. As New Year rolled through, dragging January with it, our Dining Room remained just that, and seldom used. A games night here and a date night there, but with busy work days dashing out the office at 5pm, meals were mainly wolfed down at the kitchen table, with little space for the slow enjoyed, candle lit dinners the Dining Room could offer.
We were celebrating Valentine’s Day on the 13th this year, as I was flying out on my hen holiday on the 14th. It was going to be an early Saturday morning for me so we set up a fancy seitan steak and red wine dinner in our Dining Room.
My mind was a little preoccupied as Storm Dennis was raging the country, blasting down trees, surging rivers onto lands where rivers shouldn’t be, and cancelling flights… But I relaxed into the ambience of heart balloons and happiness Nile had created for the room.
When I finally checked my phone at 10pm, I’d just missed a call from my bridesmaid group chat. Our flight had been cancelled! Are you fucking joking?!
We sat at our once romantic table, fiancée in distress, fiancé taking action.
“Look Mae, there are flights to Lanzarote at 7am tomorrow from Newcastle, seems the storm hasn’t reached the north yet, you could still go! You just have to make it to Newcastle.”
“Newcastle is so far, we’d have to leave… by midnight!”
Nile watched me dash out of the Dining Room, on speaker phone with three other excited woman, as I ran upstairs to finish packing. His heart engulfed with love for me, with love for his excited wife to be, how he could help create that excitement and watch it flourish. He booked the flights for us with some of our wedding savings, hoping we could claim it back.
The room had a brief respite before it would host it’s busiest season. It was completely unaware of anything that occurred outside it’s white walls, indefinitely self-centred, it’s whole world would always be itself.
It had no knowledge of it’s frequent inhabitants’ ever growing anxiety. Their developing awareness of a soul sucking virus that would never reach it, buy may reach them. And how this one tiny creation of particles would change the room’s life forever…
If rooms could feel, the one room that would become many rooms felt an unjustified melancholy as I walked into it on March 18th. I looked different somehow. And even though the room didn’t yet understand how, it shared my subtle feeling of emptiness.
I cleared some space on a shelf to make way for some new plants. The plants in fact were old. They’d been happily bringing green life to a grey office when they’d just been made homeless. Now adjusting to their new environment.
My arms ached from carrying a mini version of myself home, living in the collection of things one would never think one needed at work, but would eventually have. The clear plastic box that contained mini Mae looked out of place dumped on the floor of this modern room, just as everything inside it was now out of place together in such a confined space.
Nile walked in behind me, “Shall we start?”
I folded into his arms.
“Don’t worry Mae, it’ll be an adventure, we’ll make it fun! Think about all of the extra time we’ll have together now we’re both going to be working from home.”
“But what about the wedding?”
“We might still be able to get married, you never know! We just have to wait and see. You know I’m so excited for you to be my wife. We’ll figure it out.”
Reading this you might think Nile is the optimist. That’s his role in our relationship. You would be wrong. Neither of us can always be the optimist, the one who’s always got the answers. However, we always seem to become what the other needs. The way two dancers might float around each other, moving in harmony, creating space for both to shine, but also holding each other up when needed. Well I needed it then. And as I melted into his arms, the world melted away from me, leaving us alone, just me and him, in our Dining Room.
We waited until morning to start the transformation. Right now, the Dining Room seemed the only realistic space that could become our makeshift office. Excitement flowed through the room as we started to reposition the table and decide where we each would sit.
The room overcame it’s depression with our company and our enthusiasm. Once again filled with happy heartbeats and silly love. Now just came the point of the transformation… to work.
Procrastination spent many hours with us and productivity rarely shared it’s beauty. But I am always reminded of a quote I saw on one of my many hours scrolling the gram, clearly aimed at all those in my position, needing justification to stay double tapping. It went something like “Remember you are not just working from home, you are working from home in a global pandemic.” I feel in its original form it was much more powerful, but you get the point. I’m scared. You’re scared. Everybody’s scared. (Except those idiots acting like everything’s normal, not wearing masks…) but we all needed to be accepting of our circumstance. People were dying, life had no more lifelines, and for the average office worker, it was now hard to concentrate.
March 23rd arrived and we waited in our Dining Room posing as an office with a sense of dramatic irony, almost already knowing what the PM announcement would bring. Lockdown. “UK can turn coronavirus tide in 12 weeks!” Little did we know this would only be known as Lockdown 1.0, and in 12 weeks the tide would only be out with the phase of the moon, allowing a few sunny days on a sandy beach before the ocean took over again.
Also announced; weddings were cancelled. Less than a month to go and eighteen months of anticipation seemed a lifetime ago. It didn’t matter that the bridesmaid dresses had been altered, our RSVPs back and my wedding dress hidden in the wardrobe! We wouldn’t be allowed to leave our house, let alone have our wedding.
This time it was us both that needed the other to be the strong one. And as we sat digesting the news I decided we would do what we always do. We would find a way. We would take what we were given and we would make it ours. And this is how our Dining Room masquerading as our office would also become our wedding venue.
We were overwhelmed by the support and love we got from friends, family and strangers alike. I can’t possibly know, but I imagine I was just as excited for our Zoom Wedding as I would have been for an in-life one. We had the day before off work, plenty of time to make another transformation! Monitors, office chairs and keyboards were lugged upstairs taking our Dining Room back to its bare birth.
The large table pushed back to make space for an “aisle”, and we set up the laptop that would become registrar and guests. Pink blossom hung everywhere, twisting our room into a floral princess.
The excitement I felt I will find hard to forget. We’d wanted to get married for so long, and now it was tomorrow! Who cares it wasn’t as we’d planned, being Nile’s wife was the only thing I wanted.
Our Everything Room went to sleep that night with vines knotting in its figurative stomach, not wanting to mess anything up for the occasion that would follow. It may not have known what exactly was going on, but it felt it was important.
April 11th, Our Wedding Day.
The room was aware of a buzzing outside of it, electric and arcane. It waited patiently for it’s frequenters to come to it. It could sense their energy.
Nile stood in the hip new wedding venue; The Dining Room, maybe the only wedding venue in the world in that moment.
He was on a video call to his best man, who would be acting as registrar for the ceremony.
“Are you ready?” The voice was clear despite technology.
“I think so.” Nile was nervous for the ceremony, but not the marriage. To be Mae’s husband was all he wanted. “I’m going to start the Zoom.”
Nile started the call on his laptop, with his best man still virtually at his side through his phone. Everyone flooded in, and soon there was too much going on, too many comments and technology mishaps to be nervous.
“We’re just waiting for Mae,” he announced to the call.
“I’m here!” My voice echoed in from just outside the door. Still hidden from Nile and the many living rooms behind the laptop.
Music played and I stepped into the room, literally the blushing bride. Embarrassed and shy and shrinking into myself. Until Nile addressed me and only me.
“You look beautiful.”
His words brought back the woman I am and elation sparked through me once again. I finished walking down the mini aisle and took Nile’s hands.
The room came alive with atmosphere. It felt as if fifty people were inside it, not two. It witnessed the couple exchange vows, exchange rings and exchange love. A permanent promise to always care for one another. It felt incredibly proud that these two people were its people. The room mirrored their emotions and those of their guests in a multifaceted shimmering surface, magnifying every glimmer of joy. Our Everything Room held us in an unimaginable embrace, feeling as if we could float.
Nile slid his arm around my shoulder, his wife’s shoulder, and swept up my legs. I waved back to the laptop for the both of us as he dramatically carried me down the aisle.
Over the following months we existed in a surreal bliss. The weather reflected our warmth and a spring parading as summer shone brightly into what was once again our office. Until summer itself came making it almost unbearable to be working inside when the outside was paradise. The room’s huge doors were flung open, arms welcoming in the beauty of the garden, extending itself out to taste nature.
The room seemed quite content watching us out in the sun, always happy to welcome us back to the shade it could offer. Almost a member of the family as we spent most of our days in and around it.
Until we didn’t.
First we were planning our elopement, we’d loved our home ceremony but we needed to make it legal and get our marriage licence. We went just the two of us as we wanted to minimise covid exposure, and although the day will not feature in this story, I will say only that I advice prospective brides to have as many wedding days as possible. They are truly wonderful, and I am still hoping for a third with all of our loved ones when the world is ready for it.
After the elopement we were lucky enough to take a mini moon, a grace from the ocean as it rolled out freeing up the beach once more.
The room lay empty while we were away. Snippets of our souls still decorated it in photos and fingerprints, while we escaped to late summer sunsets, walks through farmers’ fields and kayaking in muddy English rivers. I don’t crave to kayak in England regularly in the future, if at all. Let me back in the Mediterranean seas please!
After a week of being submerged in our bubble of love, it was very odd to step back into our home and our Dining Room. All people have a smell, all families. I wonder if our smells have combined to create one, or if we are still two distinct beings to outsiders of our clan. Whatever the outsiders think, whenever I step back into our home after we’ve been away, our smell hits me, making me yearn to fold into it. Our nest.
And fold into it we did. Rarely venturing from our safety net, we decided we needed a more permanent office solution. We started packing up our monitors and mice once again, this time it would be forever. The room wobbled anxiously, wide eyes it didn’t posses showed only confusion. What was going on? Another ceremony? It didn’t feel like it, the energy was different. It didn’t want its friends to leave.
We were only going to the spare room. But to the room who’s whole world remained itself, upstairs was as far away as anywhere.
We were excited, new desks, new room, a dedicated office! But our once again Dining Room didn’t see it like that. If rooms could wrath it wouldn’t have wanted to, it felt only a hollow sadness as it’s minimalist look replaced jumbles of wire and life.
Of course now we had our actual Dining Room back, and our world was little bigger than its, so we wanted to spend a lot of time with it. Lockdown 2.0 commenced and soon we were forgiven as work was replaced with fun. It hosted afternoon teas, board games, darts, crazy golf, treasure hunts and fancy dinners. Colours and noises it likely would have never experienced, but an impossible scenario created impossible opportunity.
It was 2pm on Christmas Day 2020, our Dining Room held many less people but no less joy.
Nile looked out into the garden. “Still no snow,” he mused.
“We’ll have our white Christmas next year,” I comforted. “We may not be in a snow covered cabin, but as long as I’m with you I know I’ll have the best Christmas.”
“We get to spend Christmas where we got married!” replied Nile, “Thank you Mae for an amazing year. I know it wasn’t what we expected, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Nile kissed my brow, then my cheek, then my other cheek. Little butterfly kisses landed all over my face as I giggled into my husband.
As I reach the end of our story, having personified our Dining Room I feel more connected with our home. I sit in this precious room and feel the life I gave it. I smile to Our Everything Room. And it smiles back.