I unlock the front door to escape the arctic air and am greeted by the ever-growing tangle of tennis shoes, baseball cleats, slippers, gym shoes and snowboots, thrown together in an ungangly mess . I stand on the hardwood floor, my own boots dripping melted snow and salt remains into the floor below me, because every inch of rug and floor mat is already claimed. The baby squirms in my arms as I give the pile a kick to free the slightest corner for my own two feet. I slip out of my boots and move into the living room, though I don’t have to move far. Nine people with only one pair of shoes would be more than enough in an old four-square home with no closet or entryway to speak of. 18 shoes. But of course not even the boys have just one pair of shoes, especially in the winter, and we are often sorting through closer to 30 shoes that greet us each day.

Of the many issues I imagined before we married, I had not even begun to grasp how much and how often we would grapple with the question of space. Its limits, its possibilities, how to stretch it, how to multiply it, how to organize it, how to share it, even how much monetary value to give it. And just as we figure out one of those pressing questions, it morphs into yet another – because some boy joined the baseball team and brought home bags of equipment, or began the cello, or we must find a spot for the keyboard before lessons begin. After 16 years in Chicago, I am used to living with space at a premium. Things my other midwestern friends take for granted, like double garages and entryway closets, I long ago laid down. I chose that these would not dictate the quality of my life or what city we chose to lay down roots. Little did I know what walking out that decision would look like many years later.

We bought this house nine years ago from an older couple, professors with no children, who had inhabited it for 25 years. They loved the old home and restored it in every way possible. Walking in the front door the first time I was greeted by amazing space and light. For us, and our three small children, it was perfect. Rooms for everyone, even an office for me. Someone prayed over me during that season, saying they saw a picture of the exact house we were about to purchase, many years out, full to the brim with teenagers.

Little did I know what that would mean.

Fast forward nine years and everything within has doubled. This sturdy old home now houses eight beds and a crib, eight desks, nine dressers, tables and furniture and dishes and food and coats to nurture nine living, breathing, running, eating, sleeping, breathing humans. I stood back the other night at our 10-seat table, that can’t be walked fully around when a chair is pulled out, and watched as a packed room of excited little boys shouted out numbers while waving cards wildly, chairs tipping over in the excitement – fully engaged in their favorite board game, Sentinels of the Multiverse. A family event request from our oldest on the day he turned 13. Our pioneer into the teenage years, the first of many, many more just on his heels.

The evening hours filled with riotous noise. Many eruptions of yelling and laughter and cheering peppered the game, as the baby watched on with great curiosity while his sister occasionally swirled him around or delivered him a new toy.

Eventually the heroes defeated the villains, and many hands scrambled to put away the game and return eight empty popcorn bowls to the dishwasher. The tired stairs creaked beneath innumerable pairs of feet that lumbered up toward bedrooms, lined with books and beds and belongings. But first six children squeeze into the tiny bathroom to brush teeth, taking turns to spit and elbowing each other to see who will protest first this night.

They retire to rooms that are full, no one has a room to themselves any longer. They step over a brother’s dirty clothes or baseball bag, they climb up rope ladders to the lofts that Papa built them. And then, they talk. And talk. And talk. There is always periodic grumbling about space; something new to be squeezed in, something lost, something stepped on or misused by someone else. But at the end of the day there is always this. The pains, and sweetness, of living in close community with so many other messy human beings.

A couple months ago someone was praying over me yet again. This time she saw a picture of a house, a different house. An enormous house, by a lake, large enough that every person in our family could have a room to themselves, with room left over for guests. My small mind could not even picture such a thing, but I quieted my heart and took in her words without judgement.

Our oldest, the teenager, was with me, and afterwards on the drive home he was quiet for a long time. Finally he turned to me and said, “Mom, even if that does happen. Can Wesley and I please still share a room?”

I know the doubling of our family has cost them many things, like a house where they don’t have to move three bikes out of the way to get to their own. But clearly, it has gained them many things as well, and I’m grateful for those reminders.

2 Responses to “The Teaming Masses”

  1. celeste says:

    Love the reminders of the strawberries!

  2. AMaria says:

    this gave me a much needed smile today 🙂

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