Notebook > Lifestyle

Sharing spaces

"Sharing spaces" Continued...

Issue: "Rethinking the death penalty," Oct. 19, 2013

Lea Ann is caretaker extraordinaire: She does all the laundry and keeps track of everything with a master calendar on their kitchen freezer. “If it isn’t on the calendar, it doesn’t happen,” she says of neatly penciled chores, college classes, date nights, and twice-weekly meals with nearby extended family: “Having a full house keeps me young. It keeps me from being lazy.” 

Her daughter Grace said as a newlywed, she “never planned on moving back home,” but now the Woodruffs are intertwined in their everyday life. Lea Ann wakes the kids with picture books and phonics. She attends to the two younger children while Grace, 27, teaches the older two. After dinners, John slips the grandkids desserts and takes them to the backyard swing for story time. The family often hikes together on weekends. 

Last year, Lea Ann’s 80-year-old mother spent her final nine months in a hospital bed in their living room before dying of cancer in November. She didn’t complain about the noise of her great-grandchildren, ages 1 to 7, as they homeschooled and played in that same room. 

The extended family has now been together for five years. Finances at first motivated the decision, but now, as son-in-law Dan Fikkert’s work stabilizes, the Woodruffs and Fikkerts talk of extending the kitchen and adding a family room and two bedrooms—not moving out.

Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson

Mary Jackson is a writer who lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and three young children.

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