Reading time: 3 minutes

Mara: My friend’s two year old son has lived in a closet since day one. It’s a walk-in though, and they’ve made it cute (cactus decals, etc.) Recently they moved into an even smaller apartment, and since it’s a sublease, it needed a lot of love. They waited until they’d painted the mauve and royal blue walls white and given the place a deep clean before introducing him to his new home. When he walked in he opened the hall closet (think shelves; less than a foot deep) and said ‘My room! May I please take my shoes off and go inside?’ He’s a very polite kid (although he’s been known to drop an F bomb on more than one Zoom call to the grandparents). My friends are incredible, attentive parents, and they were both heartbroken until I reminded them that I’d lived the first few years of my life in a drawer. Just wait until he sees his actual closet, I told them. This kid is easy to please. And closet living just steps from Dolores Park? I’d take that over suburban ennui anyday.

Cynthia: Oh my god! You lived in a drawer? Me, too, or so I’m told. Although I’m 20 years older than you and I thought drawers went out of style in the early 60s. I actually remember seeing my baby brother in a drawer at my grandmother’s house down in Appalachia. One time when we were visiting for the weekend. I immediately understood the utility of substituting a drawer for a bassinet or crib. It was very clever and very “country” and sort of exciting in an “isn’t this cool and old-timey” kinda way. But I also remember thinking it’d be great if they could just pick that drawer up with him in it and slide it back into the chest of drawers for the night. Instead of leaving it lying out next to the big bed where we’d all have to listen to him bawling.

Mara: Ha! Yeah by the time my little brother came around (almost eight years after me and well into the 80s) he had a real crib. So bougie.

Cynthia: But let’s go back to the closet. By which I mean kids who’ve grown up in closets. 30 years in the business, and I’ve known many clients and friends who — due to the premium on space in San Francisco — have made a closet their child’s bedroom. Typically, there’s some embarrassment around it on the part of the parents. Yet I think it’s not only a clever solution but a noble practice. Minimalism, making do with less, that sort of thing. And the kid is usually none the wiser — and probably better for it in the long run.

Mara: Is SF becoming the new NYC? After college I knew a guy who rented a coffin sized built-in shelf in Manhattan. $250 a month to live in the greatest city on earth? An enviable bargain. Starting life in a closet should be every city kid’s true badge of honor. And with a gender fluid generation coming of age today, will the expression ‘coming out of the closet’ become a quaint relic of the past? I should note that after the drawer, I was upgraded to a crib that contained a pillow with Karl Marx on one side and Engels on the other. It was Berkeley in the late 70s afterall…

Cynthia: That cracks me up, because I’m pretty sure my cold-war upbringing in the coal-town of Grundy, Virginia was a real contrast to life in Berkeley, California. (Although — hey! — the United Mine Workers and other labor unions were just starting to decline in the late 60s and people in both places were still shouting “Workers of the world, unite!”) But what I meant to say is children are certainly resilient. Kids everywhere don’t actually know how good or bad they have it, and isn’t that a blessing? Which puts me in mind of this oldie-but-goodie comedy sketch featuring Marty Feldman and (pre-Monty Python) John Cleese and Graham Chapman. At least you and I got to sleep in a drawer instead of in a “rolled-up newspaper in a septic tank.” Ha ha ha. You have to watch it! THEN we’ll talk.

Photo credit: Helena Lopes

Mara Finely and Cynthia Cummins of Kindred SF Homes are everyday email pals, finding moments of connection in the midst of serving their clients. Here’s a dialogue that emerged this week.