MySpace: Claiming a Piece of Summer for Myself

img_0345.JPGIt has been a delicious summer. Not only because of the unseasonable lack of humidity. Or that a certain teenager had a job as well as a drivers’ license. Or that her sister was working fulltime. Or even that I’m cooking fewer meals thanks to a local food co-op that provides healthy dinners at a very affordable price.

No, the summer was a standout from the summers since I’ve been a mother (see “Summer Mothers” at for my thoughts on last year’s version) because of a nine-by-twelve foot space that I called my own. I owe it to two small iron chairs, a table and a flattop roof.

This space extends from a second story bedroom in my house separated by a door inset with glass that, up until a few months ago, had been treated like a vertical bay window. When my daughters were younger I lived in fear that they would somehow unlatch it and make their way onto this-rooftop-without-a-railing and well, you can imagine everything frightening that I can imagine about that scenario.

So until last spring, this 9 x 12 square foot roof had been untouched and uninhabited like the surface of the moon pre-1969 — seen from afar, but whose surface was never stepped upon. When my oldest moved out of the bedroom, I moved my office in. Finally, at long last, a room of my own.

But like so much else about motherhood, my office became everyone else’s office. A source for paper, pens and books. Where everyone printed out school papers and business documents. And though it was mine, it didn’t really feel like mine.

That’s about when the rooftop became a huge distraction, around the time when the trees woke up and greened, the branches stretched over this patch of roof and gave it a decidedly tree house feeling, complete with foliage for privacy and a great view of at least five neighbors’ back yards.

My friend and across-the-street neighbor Sean, who overflows with good ideas (especially of the home and hearth variety), saw similar possibilities for the slightly larger rooftop space above her garage and moved some chairs, a table and numerous plants there. When she invited me to sit with her there last summer for tea and conversation, I knew that this was an idea whose time had come … for me.

But my towel and sand chair just didn’t do it. Nor did a lounge chair with two positions. (Too perilous.) I almost gave up until Sean gave me an In.

It came in the form of a Sunday newspaper ad from one of those oversize warehouse stores. Sean handed it to me, smiling. There it was: two green iron chairs with a lovely floral back design and matching table – about two sizes bigger than child’s furniture and a size smaller than traditional porch furniture for $49.99.

It would have all been too easy if I had been able to run to the warehouse store 10 minutes from my home and return with this little trio of heaven. Several phone calls and four hours of driving in a hard rainstorm was what I needed to pick up the pieces. And, sweet success: I was rewarded for my efforts with a $10 off coupon and a husband willing to screw the pieces together.

Once the iron pieces became chairs and the table had its legs, I placed them smack dab in the middle of my little rooftop and wow. Who knew how awesome three little properly positioned pieces of patio-esque furniture could be? For those of you reading this in print: please refer to the attached photo. Those of you reading this online, go to for visuals.

It has since become my place for morning coffee and paper. My grab-a-few-minutes-between-events space. My get-away-from-noisy-teenagers. Members of my family have actually lost my whereabouts, forgetting to look for me here because I’ve told them that no one, I mean no one, is allowed unless invited.

I think I get it now. I’m just like the kid who spends an awful lot of time building a tree house (or hovering over a parent who does) and then nailing a sign that reads: No Grownups Allowed. It doesn’t go away with age. It probably gets more potent. It must be the desire for a little bit of personal space – some real estate — to get away from it all for a little while and claim a piece of summer for myself.

Ellen Blum Barish is an award-winning syndicated columnist, mother of two daughters and author of “Views from the Home Office Window: On Motherhood, Family and Life,” available at Copyright 2008. Ellen Blum Barish.