Great Indoors

Scintilla Project, Prompt 4: Talk about your childhood bedroom. Did you share? Slam the door? Let someone in you shouldn’t have? Where did you hide things?

I always felt bad for kids whose parents cared about the “look” of their children’s bedrooms, as if the children were meant to be carefully kept, and the bedrooms were their beautiful boxes.  To have a mint condition child required Shaker-style bunk beds, and a madras duvet.  Those well-minted children in their dollhouse bedrooms would obviously grow up to be less-damaged than the ones who had been not raised under the auspices of Ethan Allen.

I can say with certainty that even while I was in the thick of being parented by and surviving Tom and Linnie’s parenting decisions, I am pretty sure they had no intention of having me in bedroom full of heirloom furniture.  Instead, my life began with the freedom to govern my own space. 

In other words, Ethan who?

I like to create things; I like design.  I love beautiful lines, and décor that makes people think.  If you come over to my house now, there is a bit of provocative art; there are lines and angles; there are soft things, too.

I like made things; I like found things.  The parsons tables in my house, about which I so often wax poetic, were inherited in my early 20s.  But they were slathered in a dark stain that had chipped, and even where it was still intact, it completely obscured the delicate inlay on the top of each piece.  I spent the summer after I finished college painstakingly sanding those things; scraping them.  Staining them by hand.  I worked in the oppressive Southern California heat, alone with some sandpaper and couple of cans of Minwax.  Halfway through the project, I finally relented and bought myself a power sander.

But refinishing a set of tables was not unusual for me, even at that point in my life.  Years earlier, I’d had a vision of how I wanted my childhood bedroom to look, and effecting the design required the same effort and precision as fixing up those tables ultimately did.

I had wanted my bedroom to look like the outdoors.

I suppose calling this my childhood bedroom would be a misnomer, because we moved house when I was a tween.  But this was the room in which I spent the most important of my formative years.

So I plotted a course towards My Dream Bedroom.  In order to get anything in my family, I was required to present a proposal.  If powerpoint had existed at that time (or if it did, if it had existed for Apple), I am sure my father would’ve required a slide-deck and a business case.  (My childhood was spent presenting my case to my father.  There were always proposals; papers; I recall one or two posterboards, even.  He governed my life like he was the Dean of a one pupil business school.)

I presented my case, and it was accepted, and we moved towards the implementation phase.  First, I would sponge paint the entire bedroom a matte blue.  Then, I would paint the baseboards with a semi-gloss green, and paint grass growing up from the baseboards.  After that, Dad would take me to the hardware store, and we’d purchase a length of picket fence to nail to the walls.  And they would replace the carpet with plush, green wall-to-wall.  There would be accessories and things to match, of course.  But that was the gist of it.

I had to do it myself, too:  me, a ladder, sponges.  Paint brushes.  I had a crick in my neck for about a year after sponge-painting my ceiling, but I finished the job.  The end result was gorgeously whimsical, and conformed exactly to what I had wanted.

It was a safe space.

There were times when I hated that my parents hadn’t bought me durable, matchy-matchy furniture.  There were times when my teen angst and self-loathing were such that I had to pin every award I’d ever received to my wall to remind me that I was worthy.  Sometimes, I cared that my mother didn’t seem to give a hang what I did to my bedroom, when everyone else’s mother was hung up on whether the things that defined her daughter looked right.

There were times when I wanted to be like everyone else.

But I wasn’t.  And I’m not.  And the little blue room with the green grass and the picket fence was where I had room to be me.  But where I had space to grow, I eventually outgrew.  Mums and Dad whitewalled the room during my first year at UCLA.  By then, I didn’t need the little blue room any more.  Over the years, I learned that I wasn’t cut out for the fenced-in life; that my tastes tended towards the sleeker, sharper, more open and modern.  But how wonderful to grow up damaged and wild, under cover of a private sky.

(Voila: the awards; the filing cabinet (!); the white picket fence; the sky; the grass. And the bat I once hung from the ceiling fan.)


Leave a Comment

  1. I am loving that snap sick.

    My parents moved us into The Family Home when I was four. My room until the age of 2 (at which point I was well out of the house) was papered with this horrible cream-calico that the original occupants had seen fit to put up. It was claustrophobic and terrifying.

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