Over 80 years ago, an essay by British modernist author Virginia Woolf contended that a certain species of person needs a room of one’s own.

Lovely idea, that, but practical? In cultures where entire families crowd into one tiny room to sleep, a room of one’s own is an unimaginable luxury.

The first home that Mike and I purchased four years into our marriage was a four-room bungalow in southern New Hampshire: two bedrooms, living room, dining room, and galley kitchen. We brought our babies home to that house, and it never felt cramped until the number of people finally exceeded the number of rooms. After Mike enclosed the screen porch, our family of five sprawled out into nearly 1000 square feet of living space. But no space for sure for a room of one’s own.

Our first home - Hudson, New Hampshire - 1980-1989

Our first home – Hudson, New Hampshire – 1980-1989

Our second house – a raised ranch on Cape Cod – was half again as big. 1500 square feet with 3 bedrooms and a bath and a half! What to do with so much space? Add two more children, of course, even if we had to bring them in half-grown. And so we did. But no space for sure for a room of one’s own.

Osterville house

Our home on Cape Cod (pre-grass!), 1989-2002

So how did I get here? Right now? This moment when I sit writing under a roof shoved up into the Midwestern sky by two stories that have sheltered us 13 years already?

A Prairie-style home large enough to take in all manner of folk, kith and kin, students and neighbors, new friends fit to be made into old ones.

Mike's Garden 2015 JW

Backyard of our home in Wheaton 2002- present.

A real fixer-upper on a busy street, that she’s been. 13 years of removing curling wallpaper and stripping century-old wood floors. Hauling in kitchen cabinets another family had destined for the dump. Restoring sagging porches and replacing wiring installed early in the Hoover administration.

So with much to be done, who had time to see to the tiny room in the southwest corner stenciled with faded rosebuds? Must have been a nursery decades ago, a sunny space for a little girl long gone.

But after the social spaces became fit for company in the early years and the kitchen and the guestrooms followed suit, my man turned an eye to that faded bloom of a room.

And one day this summer I came home to find the worn pink carpet gone and aged timber gleaming through.

A damaged old counter that served as a writing surface had vanished, and the oak desk Poppa Rowe used as a boy was in its place.


Somebody named IKEA provided sturdy white bookshelves to hold a universe of reading. Somebody who loves me hung a teal ocean on the walls.

Office 1

And glory be, do you know what has come to pass?

The lady of the house might be into her 60’s, but yes, Virginia, it’s come true at last.

She’s got a room of her own.