You open the door to your house. A full day of work or play is firmly settled on your shoulders: the stresses of the job that you either overcame or didn’t in the past eight to twelve hours, the necessary plans for the next four to six pushing into the forefront of your mind. You have at last arrived to a place of rest – or at least of return –
But there is no place to take off your shoes.
Why should you have to track those wears and worries all the way to a dining room chair or a couch or a bed before untying weary laces and relieving aching feet? When I open the door to my home, I find myself firmly inside the kitchen, a jarring transition from out to in that leaves me standing somewhat baffled for several slow blinks at my status of being in the world. At what point have I transformed from bread-winner into home-maker? Where does the world end and the home begin?
The home begins where you take off your shoes.
I grew up in New England, where there are only three seasons: Winter, Mud Season, and Construction. If you tracked in that whole muddy mess from outside all the time, your floors would be ruined faster than you could possibly imagine. That’s why, with very few exceptions that I can recall, New England houses have a mudroom: a pre-entry way, either in the form of an enclosed porch or a small, unfinished room exclusively used for stamping your feet and removing soiled boots. I took this setup for granted until I moved to the Mid Atlantic, where I’ve found that houses begin abruptly and force you to traipse around in shoes, bestowing little pieces of God-knows-what from the outside world upon your floors. As someone who works in the food industry, this means unwittingly attracting hundreds of hungry ants into my apartment. Now, my transformation must occur while cramped in the car, as I have resorted to removing my shoes there and leaving them in the passenger seat overnight, which feels to me like madness. I have yet to determine how this will be managed come winter.
The other beauty of the mudroom is in its connection to weather-watching. Having the perfect balance between ‘in’ and ‘out’, it becomes the safest dangerous place to watch a raging thunderstorm, hailstorm, blizzard. Usually equipped with a screen door leading outside, the mudroom allows you to hear the storm, unobscured by glass and insulation, even feel the wind and occasional spits of rain. Saved by the thin walls around you, you are able to experience the outside world from inside.
Observe a beautiful storm in all its terror, but keep your head dry. Walk in mud to the end of the earth, but by God keep it off your floors.