We, the Adams Family, are living in a hotel. Yes, you read that correctly. For thirty-one days, Dave, Kyle, Eli and I have been sharing approximately 463 Square feet of space. Each night the boys trade between a comfy foam floor bed and a sleeper sofa. As long-term guests our room is cleaned twice a week, and we call often for more toilet paper, bath towels, and clean sheets (clean sheets because the sleeper sofa is often skipped on cleaning day). We are grateful we have a nice place to rest our heads, and have only suffered one casualty – a broken car window and stolen laundry supplies via a smash and grab (soap, stain remover, and color safe bleach – may your clothes be very clean, and you not bleach your colors, you most irritating thieves).
We checked in to our hotel Sunday evening, March 08, 2015. And for the first time, we are not just visiting the Bay Area, we are trying to live.
Here is what happened. Or better, here is what made my brain wheels spin, and my center of gravity consider a reconfiguration. It was early in our hazy-lovely-dream-scary-nightmare-of-constant-around-the-clock-power-drill-construction-work-and-one-bedroom-hotel living. Dave updated his “where I live” Facebook Status from Park City, Utah to Emeryville, California. And before I could object, (because this hotel is temporary, damn it), one of our well-meaning friends replied, “Emeryville?” And whether true or not, I sensed her Emeryville was also followed by a very loud and of course all-powerful, “ew.” Her words continued, “I thought you were going to live in San Francisco. What happened?”
Yes, What happened?
I wanted to respond, “No, Facebook Friend. See, Dave was downplaying things a bit. We actually bought a 6.5 million dollar Pacific Heights three story, which is of course within the actual San Francisco city limits. He only said Emeryville because we did not want to sound pretentious.” And maybe for a moment I wanted it to be true. I wanted Pacific Heights to be our space.
Alas, we did not purchase a Pacific Heights three story. We are not living within the San Francisco city limits. Dave does not have a hipster beard-grooming budget and my heart did not grow three sizes this past month or even today. That is not our journey.
We are living in a hotel.
With my defenses heightened, instead of reading her words as a sincere question, I admittedly interpreted her Emeryville comment as public condemnation. Judgment, and the words I heard were a sneering, “You said you were going to live in San Francisco, not the crappy little industrial town that sits on the east side of the Bay Bridge –E M E R Y V I L L E! Ew!”
Before I said something I would have to delete, I asked Dave why. “Why did you say Emeryville? We aren’t living anywhere. We do not know where we are going to be or even when we are going to be there?” With that, he deleted his “where I live” status update, but as I found today, his “where I live” page still says, Emeryville. “Hey Baby (of course I am referring to Dave), we do not live in Emeryville!”
The space between the spaces is where we live and where we continue to be. Until now, during a time when I am acutely jammed between one situation and the next, I have not been able to articulate my space. How do I make people understand that Dave does not work a traditional brick and mortar job? Does it matter? We simply do not move to San Francisco, buy a house, the end. We have been in this space before we arrived in Emeryville, and will be in this space once we leave. Because my husband is a high tech entrepreneur, we tend to live on the fence of life. Until now, our in-between-the-spaces living has been fine. It was the road we traveled. And because I tend to be a person who likes to keep all options open, in truth, I think I am well suited for this road.
Then we arrived in Emeryville. After thirty-one days of hotel living, (not traveling living), I realize that I need more. (And maybe finally, because finally something is actually pushing me out of the in between).
As I reach for my own solid place to land, I started thinking about the word “liminal.” It is a word I was introduced to last year. And according to the OED, it means “occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.”
I learned about the spaces in between the space in my American Literature class. I was up to my eyeballs in literary theory and analysis, and my professor happened to have a keen appreciation for literary spatial theory. In that world, liminal space refers to the space in between; whether it is the actual space, or say the space between words. As prophetic as this concept seems now, I can tell you that Literary Spatial Theory made absolutely no sense to me. None. I could talk about it. I thought it made sense. That was, until the words left my mouth. I was often met by glazed confusion or utter dismay. “The space between the spaces? That is nonsense!” I wrote papers about space. I wrote about Silas Lapham, a man whose unending struggle was his difficulty moving from one social class to the next. He never fit into either. Ah-ha! He was stuck in the space between the spaces.
I get you, Silas Lapham. I am trying to find my place. In my case it is actually a literal space. I do not like living in no man’s land. And really, liminal seems a term best suited for college papers, not my real life. Another definition of liminal is the state between rituals. I like this definition, and promise to cite it here – if I remember. The OED goes on to suggest that during a ritual’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold between their previous ways of structuring their identity, time, or community.” And our threshold apparently is a hotel room in Emeryville, CA. Emeryville is not a shitty East Bay town set at the end of the Bay Bridge. Well, it is a town set at the end of the Bay Bridge. And these days it is actually pretty nice with its fancy outdoor malls, overpriced condos, and Ikea down the street. Emeryville is our space. And right not, it is the place between the spaces, a place where we are trying to figure things out. And it is a place where our new ritual begins – wherever that happens to be.