Life on the floor.

I’m not sure when this photo was taken. 1977? 1978? I’m so bad at determining the ages of children younger than 10. I think I must be 2 or 3 years old here, right? I had a dream about this photo last night. Well, not about the photo itself, but about the scene it depicts. I remember that set of wooden building blocks so clearly. They were stained in primary colors, and the finish was translucent enough that you could make out the grain of the wood. The one with the arch in it was my favorite—you could use it to make tunnels or boats, depending on which way you turned it. I do remember feeling annoyed that the arch wasn’t tall enough to roll a Matchbox car underneath it, though.

I think my dream might have been induced by a conversation I had yesterday with a cousin I hadn’t seen more than 30 years. He said he remembered playing with toy cars with me on the living room carpet at my aunt and uncle’s house when I was 4 or 5 years old—he must have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time. Now I can’t get the feeling of sitting on the floor in that room out of my head…the soft greige color of the carpet, the fire burning nearby, Alice the dog looking on.

So much of my life has been spent on the floor. As the perpetual baby of the family—at least until my nieces and nephews came along—I was always relegated to sitting on the floor instead of getting a prime spot on the sofa. I don’t think I minded. On the floor you can stretch out your legs. You can crawl under the coffee table and make a little house. If there’s a dog or a cat around, you’re right at their level. You have infinite work space. You can play with your blocks, draw and watch “The Muppet Show,” all at the same time.

My love of working on the floor carried on into my teenage years, when my mother would ask with concern if I was going to hurt my back by sitting hunched over a notebook with my legs in a V-formation while I did my math homework. Desks were worthless for anything other than piling up papers. In college, I’d set up camp on the floor in a corner of the library with all of my books spread out around me when I needed to study for an exam. We had easels in figure drawing class, but even then I preferred to take floor position. It just felt better.

Now that I’m a Real Adult with a Real Job, I have to work at a desk. It’s still a little weird to me that I sit in a chair and wear shoes all day. I guess computers don’t translate to floor usage very well, do they? My back couldn’t handle it anyway.

26 comments
  1. kristyNov 25, 20127:51 pm

    Hmmm you just made me think about this…. I can;t remember the last time I sat on the floor! I’m going to tonight :)

    [Reply]

  2. DanielleNov 25, 20127:54 pm

    I don’t know: most of the world sits on the floor (or on cushions on the floor) and they seem to be doing fine. I felt the same about it as you did – no-one ever fights you for the floor, so it’s all yours. I have far fewer hips issues than many of my friends and I strongly believe it’s from spending so much time cross-legged (I propped my canvases up on the side of the bed and sat on a cushion for years as a teenager). Have you seen those amazing Japanese legless “chairs” (Wikipedia tells me they are called “zaisu”) that allow you to sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you, but with back support? I want one.

    http://dpdesignandfab.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/the-simple-seat/

    And a Google search reveals that Apartment Therapy has your computer work/floor sitting dilemma all figured out:

    http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/can-you-work-on-the-floor-83947

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    I think sitting on the floor to relax is one thing, but sadly it’s the leaning forward to work that is murder on my back. If only I were still 16…

  3. the chronic utilitarianNov 25, 20128:13 pm

    what a fantastic photo.

    those blocks were imaginationcity. the orange ones were my faves.

    [Reply]

  4. daniel @ Manhattan NestNov 25, 20128:14 pm

    OK, Little Anna is so, so cute. I’m dead. I died.

    Floor is always best. I don’t trust people who use desks by choice, generally. Just a little thing I live by.

    [Reply]

  5. Frau HaselmayerNov 25, 20129:45 pm

    I miss sitting on the floor. Most of the homework during my teenage years was done sitting on the floor in my room, my back leant at the edge of my bed and my homework on my knees. I remember it so well. The TV was running and showing MTV. I was sitting there while reading the news that Kurt Cobain killed himself on MTV. I can’t believe that this is almost 20 years…it feels like I just sat there yesterday…
    If I got uncomfortable I switched to my bed and sat there. It never occured to me to switch to my desk (which was mostly used for applying makeup).

    [Reply]

  6. mommyNov 25, 201210:08 pm

    You were so cute! I clearly remember when I took this picture. You were acting goofy by putting the block on top of your head and then laughing wildly at your “joke”. These toys make me nostalgic for the pre-plastic days. The box for storing the blocks was a cardboard box covered with wrapping paper. I remember making a baby toy of empty wooden thread spools and buttons on a string. Sigh.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    That’s a pretty good joke, you have to admit! Next time I see you I’ll put something else on my head and I bet it’ll make you laugh. :)

    I think I still have that box! Or at least another one like it. My tea set is in it. A cardboard box covered with yellow flowered wrapping paper.

  7. Victoria SmithNov 25, 201210:30 pm

    love this post. and i completely remember those ‘translucent’ blocks. sort of faded and looking like they’d been ‘bled’. made some good stuff out of those blocks.

    [Reply]

  8. dervla @ The CuratorNov 25, 201211:04 pm

    this is such a beautiful photograph and I love that you can remember which block was your favorite. I love sitting on the floor even now.

    [Reply]

  9. kelly wNov 26, 20121:37 am

    and the little half-circle blocks that fit into the bridge blocks, which you could then use, in a pinch, if you were out of rectangles.

    [Reply]

  10. LizzieNov 26, 20121:39 am

    Adorable photo, and a lovely memory to go with it. Time goes by way too fast, : / you blink and suddenly you’re an adult.

    [Reply]

  11. miri (miris jahrbuch)Nov 26, 20121:40 am

    I love this photograph!
    I still sit on the floor a lot. To read or study or craft or whatever. Maybe I haven’t fully grown up yet.

    [Reply]

  12. CristinaNov 26, 20123:26 am

    oh that photo is so sweet… with my 3 children I’m used to play, read etc always on the floor now even play with my cats
    love your new header!
    Cristina
    Italy

    [Reply]

  13. CarolineNov 26, 20124:05 am

    Aw, lovely post. Love your mum’s comment, too. I’ve just had a baby, and like a diva I asked for only wooden toys as gifts. All the plastic crap makes me depressed!

    I have a friend I always tease as he prefers sitting on the floor. I’ll quiz him about his preference!

    Cx

    [Reply]

  14. RoseNov 26, 20126:57 am

    I often choose to sit on the floor. People look at me strangely when I try to sit on the floor at their houses.

    At my brother’s wedding, I tried to sit on the floor for the service since they underestimated how many chairs we would need. I was heartily scolded by my older sisters. I was in my 20s at the time :P

    [Reply]

  15. KathleenNov 26, 20128:59 am

    I had those exact same blocks! I often reminisce about them – they were by far my favorite toy. Legos came in at a close second.

    I’m all about sitting on the floor too. I’m about to trade in my Heywood-Wakefield dining room table for something low-profile and lots of cozy cushions.

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Wow, really?! I’m really curious to see how that turns out. I love sitting on the floor to eat!

  16. MichelleNov 26, 201212:24 pm

    Lovely post, lovely photo! I try to sit on the floor as long as my back could take it…eventually I end up lying on the floor with my laptop inclined on my lap (I don’t really know why I think thats comfortable)
    Anyway, first time commenter, long time reader! Love your blog, and new header! :)

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Thanks, Michelle! Not a full redesign, more like a new scarf for the blog. ;)

  17. ti (matimuk)Nov 26, 20123:13 pm

    lovely image!! :)

    [Reply]

  18. EmmaNov 26, 20124:54 pm

    Haha, I still prefer the floor to a desk! My desk is still just a place for piling papers and magazines… But I have stopped sitting on the floor in public, since a couple of years back now. People look at you so funny for some reason, especially if you are in an office or school…

    I had those blocks too, and the arch shape was my favorite too! I had little half moon shapes too, that fit in the arch, and would always try to balance other blocks on the half moons. Not very successfully as you can imagine.

    By the way, your new design looks great!

    [Reply]

  19. FatimaNov 27, 20122:01 am

    Me too, Miss the days when i spread my books on the floor and start studying

    now with real job and desk i just can’t
    most of the days i fell like i’ll gana do it and set on the floor, but am a programmer so i can’t

    [Reply]

  20. MelissaNov 27, 20128:23 pm

    I can relate to this 100%. I’m in grad school now and do all of my work on the floor. My desk is currently piled high with papers. If I had an office where I do my practicum, it’d be in the same state as my bedroom desk is. And I sleep on the floor, but that’s another issue entirely!

    [Reply]

  21. AmyNov 28, 20126:13 pm

    Arches are the best part of a block set. The comment from your mom is so sweet, it explains that HUGE smile on your face. You’ve reminded me of when my dad would get on the floor to play blocks and legos with us… it was so unusual to see an adult (ha, probably only in his mid 30s at the time!) stretched out on the floor.

    [Reply]

  22. bfishDec 2, 20128:39 am

    I’m old enough to be your mother and I had the same blocks as a kid — funny how timeless real wood toys are.

    Floor sitting doesn’t work so well with pets, if one is actually trying to get something done other than love the babies.

    Years ago I sat on the floor so long in the V-position you described — making a beaded belt on a loom — that when I tried to get up my legs were paralyzed! It took a long time to get enough feeling back to stand up. Vey weird and this happened when I was 18 or 19 so not old-age related!

    [Reply]

Your comment

Comment

Door Sixteen is a hate-free, drama-free, spam-free zone.
Wanna be startin' somethin'? Beat it.

Want a little picture to show up next to your comments? Go get a Gravatar!