Fear Not Bold Colors

During my early years, I shared a room with my sister.  According to the dates on the photos, it would appear I was about two when Kirsten and I moved into our shared room.  I’m also told we went to Disneyland when I was two, making that a very busy Year of Unremembered Wonders.

Here we are, christening the new girls’ bedroom by whacking at it with our bums:  Kirsten, Jocelyn, and big brother Geoff, on whom I spent a great deal of my first 18 years leaning (family lore has it, when I came home from the hospital–drove myself, incidentally–he took a gander at me and announced, “That’s MY baby.”  ‘Twas ever so). 

Amazingly, that balalalika hanging ominously over my pig-tailed head never did crash down in the middle of the night.  Look at it there:  how did I escape without a scar on my forehead?  What’s more, when I look at this photo, I still can feel that lined bedspread.  It had the texture of a particularly tough burlap bag.  Let’s all take a moment to praise the development of synthetic fibers, ‘k?  I bow before you, Empress Fleece.  I kowtow in front of your throne, King Micro-fiber.  I like to think, though, that sleeping under such a scratchy bedspread started my toughening process.

Indeed, I’m certain that bedspread is why, today, I can eat spicy curries, bite off even the bloodiest of hangnails, and remain tearless while I watching GLEE (except whenever those scrappy misfits sing “Don’t Stop Believin’”…and, oh yea, when the visiting deaf choir sings and signs “Imagine”). [grudging disclosure:  I just watched the Gaullaudet choir again, singing that song, and even though I know it’s patronizing treacle, I’m wiping my eyes with the edge of a pillowcase]

Sharing that room (and, later, another down the hall) with my sister clearly had its benefits:  I got tough; I hung with me sis; and consolidating two kids into one room made the house seem bigger.

But at some point, my sister reached an age where she needed her own space.  The collateral damage of that decision was me at loose ends, hanging around the house, wondering where I was to sleep.  On the hearth?  In Mumsie’s jewelry drawer?

Or how about this one?  I slept in one end of the rec room in the basement.  It was my choice.  Ready to make the move from Upstairs to Downstairs (where the cool orange carpet and hip wood paneling lived), I willingly joined my brother, who’d been a bottom feeder for some time.  He had a real bedroom in the basement, and my family helped me join him under the lower-level’s artifical lighting by cobbling together a “wall” made out of a screen and a big armoire.  We cordoned off the end of the rec room, threw a waterbed into the space, and dubbed it functional.

I LOVED that “room.”  For one thing, getting my own space also meant I got my own clock radio.  And with a clock radio, I was able to participate in the subculture known as People Who Dial and Redial the Local Station Called ‘KBear’ in an Effort to Win Free Black Sabbath Tickets.  Fleshing out that fun was the fact that my new bedroom featured a full-length mirror, which nicely reflected my many acts of Twirling In Nightgown.

Despite the beauty of claiming my twelve feet of rec room, a greater future beckoned. 

‘Cause my brother had a real bedroom in the basement–like with doors and a built-in desk. 

And, barring any unforeseen prison time, he would be going to college…

…leaving me at home for three years before I headed off to college–three years spent in yet another new bedroom, one previously called Geoff’s Room but which quickly morphed into Jocelyn’s Suite of Sweetness.

Sigh.  Looking upon my Suite, I find it hard to believe HGTV hasn’t hired me to be one of its decorating experts.  Too rarely on The Stagers do we see clusters of half-deflated balloons hung at window level, thus drawing the eye upwards and reminding potential buyers to “see the light.”  Too rarely on Real Estate Intervention do we see collages of Hall & Oates, Rush, and Journey assembled to convey a “these bodacious boys would love you if they met you” selling point.

And so my high school years were spent in the Suite.  I sat on the stool and used hot rollers.  I opened and closed the curtains featuring basketball and football players striving to score (at least the room saw some action).  I pinned dried corsages on the bulletin board.  I sang to “Sunday, Bloody Sunday,” marching around and waving an invisible flag at crowds of fans who echoed my every lyric.  I accepted an invitation to Prom, and shut up already that he was gay.  I smashed a rogue scorpion with a clog (Montanans ain’t no pussies).

After a few years, I filled out college applications there, too.  Ultimately, I left the Suite behind.  My parents sold the house.  Everybody grew up.

Of course, the bedrooms in the basement still exist inside my skull.  My younger self still occasionally visits the orange carpet, still stops in to straighten the stuffed Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, still remembers the wheeee of sharing the waterbed with friends during sleepovers, still pings with feeling more social and lonely in that room than she’s ever been since.

Those rooms of my own bred in me comfort and courage:  to call and twirl and claim and decorate and open and pin and march and smash.  They showed me how to take my own room with me, inside me, wherever I go.

Now, thirty years later, I am fortunate.  I am able to give the same to my daughter. 

For the last decade, she has shared spaces with parents and brother; of late, however, it’s become clear she’s ready to have a door to close.

If we are willing to knock and wait, she comes to us, in her time, of her own accord.

Her new room is the only one in the house with no radiator and, thus, no heat.  She claims she’s used to it and doesn’t mind the cold.  Right there is an attitude that will help her soldier through middle school.

Paint cans and IKEA held all the bright colors she craved.

Although she can’t peer enough at herself these days, Girl opted for a desk rather than the vanity with full-length mirror that used to reflect my twirls.  Because she likes papers and pens, her feeling was that a desk would serve her better.

This is her reading nook, a space I could wriggle into…but then, Winnie-the-Poo-like, would have to remain in for weeks, until I shrunk enough to pop out.

As much as she likes papers and pens, she also likes bags and fuzzy carpets.

Stored way up high, in a place called Heaven, are her American Girl dolls.

She wanted polka dots all over her walls, but we talked her into hanging dottish fabric instead.

The only thing better than a journal and a ballpoint is a map.  Hanging this depiction of a WWII town on the wall gave her mind new roads to travel.

Perched on her warm comforter, new Ipod nearby, she clicks two pens,

ready to write her own stories.

Private, hardy, bright, organized, cozy, compromising,

the heroine discovers herself.






20 responses to “Fear Not Bold Colors”

  1. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    I shared a room with my brother AND sister, and then, YAY! got my own room. But a divorce in the family changed that and my sister and I had to go back to sharing a room. Not good. This is why when I got divorced, I didn't even look at places smaller than three bedrooms so the kids could each have their own space. It matters.

  2. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    What a great space. We are currently on makeover number 3 of the youngest girl's room–all sophisticated in gray and cranberry. Once again, thank you IKEA.

  3. Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings Avatar
    Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings

    My room, my haven, had purple carpet. Purple. It was soooo cool. And it had slanted ceilings, a closet for me to hide in and a door to slam closed when my brother drove me crazy. Which was often. And always. Behind that door I could blast all the boy bands I wanted to without anyone (but my future self) to condemn me.

    Ah, what memories you've brought back for me!

  4. Patois Avatar

    Wow. Just wow. My parents had five kids in six years (and three months). I was #4. I didn't get digs of my own until I was 13. And that was a space smaller than your daughter's. We painted it orange. [Why oh why do parents let children choose their colors? It's why we have a yellow bedroom, a purple (two-tone) bedroom, and a green (two-tone) bedroom.] Until the room of my own at 13, it was military housing, sharing with my older sister. My kids? Have always wanted to sleep in the same room. My 13-year-old son finally stopped wanting that about 1.5 years ago.

    Damn, girl, you are always conjuring up my memories. (And, hey, BTW, did you know "Doublesifted" is sending people to you? You must be big time. I know you must be big time 'cause they just sent people Beck's way earlier. I'm so proud to "know" you!)

  5. jess Avatar

    What's doublesifted? I'm SO not in the know. Anyways, please tell girl I think her room rocks. The reading nook is my favorite. It really seems to reflect her personality, which a room of one's own should do. Your teenage personality was clearly artistic and, um could not be confined in a barren space.

  6. kmkat Avatar

    We were in the midst of 2-3 years of remodeling when #1 son was in high school. He camped out anywhere he could simply because he could no longer stand to share a room with his little brother. My fondest memory is of him sleeping on the floor of our walk-in closet. For months.

  7. Fragrant Liar Avatar
    Fragrant Liar

    Well that took me down a historical pathway to my own house of the '60s, where my brothers and sisters had their own rooms down in the basement — the cold, cold basement — where Dad had erected makeshift walls between them. Meanwhile, upstairs, I had my own room, the lilac walls of which were taped and tacked with Tiger Beat PR shots of my favorite teen idols. Total girlie chaos. I'm thinking now about revisiting those days on my current bedroom walls. Can't you see it now? Bobby Sherman and Sajid Khan, David Cassidy and Peter Tork. Groovy.

  8. phd in yogurtry Avatar
    phd in yogurtry

    Those colors are wonderful. So bright and energetic, all the more to twirl her pen and claim her paper.

  9. flutter Avatar

    does she want a room mate?

  10. diane Avatar

    Your brother was a bottom feeder, haha *snort. That's hysterical. My BIL lived in our recreation room for years before he finally figured out which one of my sisters he wanted to marry; his real mother hated my mom for letting him live with us.
    I really like your daughter's room. Yours….meh, not so much. Stop making that face, my room was not so great either when I was a teen.

  11. ds Avatar

    Go, Girl!! What a great room! The last time we painted (family project: if it's your room, you help with the prep & painting) CS's room the much-desired color was black. Everywhere. Scheme vetoed by Parental Units. Deepest, darkest blue was presented & okayed because ceiling was to be a lighter hue. Whenever I enter that room and look up, I have a literal visual reminder of the Stormy Seas of Adolescence. And a strange twitch in my neck…

  12. furiousBall Avatar

    Consider yourself lucky, that balalalika hanging ominously over my pig-tailed head did crash down in the middle of the night.

    Oh, the balalalika scars I have to this day.

    WTF is a balalalika?

  13. Jazz Avatar

    What a great story. And what a great room – though I hate a frigid bedroom…

    The first thing that jumped out at me when I saw that picture of your room – the mustache. God that was a nasty broom he had there. Was that Hall or Oates?

  14. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    I LOVE her room! And like you, I got a room of my own but in a basement. My advice is to get your daughter an electric blanket and all will be well.
    It still amazes me that my 3 boys are voluntarily sharing a room when they don't have to. I? Would NEVER have voluntarily shared a room.
    And I love all the details about your early years…including singing U2 to imaginary fans.

  15. Yo is Me Avatar
    Yo is Me

    beautiful post.

    my sister had a booger collection in her room.

  16. choochoo Avatar

    I shared a room with my sister. She drew on the walls. Or maybe it was me. Either way, the took the fall.

  17. lime Avatar

    oh yippee for her. that is a fun step especially for a girl who shared lodgings with a younger brother (been there, done that). i like her choice of bright colors and the reading nook and slanty ceiling. also had a room without heat and it made me love the feeling of a hundred blankets weighing down on me to keep me warm.

    oh, and as an aside. daryl hall graduated from a rival school in the next town over from me. a friend's mom graduated with him. he was sort of revered locally.

  18. Midlife Jobhunter Avatar
    Midlife Jobhunter

    Catching up. I'll be back to read the posts I've missed. Meantime, how lucky your daughter is to have such a creative mom. HGTV couldn't compete with the love that has gone into her room.

  19. Becky Cazares Avatar
    Becky Cazares

    The reading nook is to die for! Any girl who starts out tween life with that many books in her room will turn out not only well adjusted, but also well read! First time I didn't have to share a room with older sis (just 17 months older so we shared 'til the bitter end!), it was a corner of the attic much like girl's but I had to scamper through stinky brothers' room to get to it and it had a curtain, not a door. But it was MINE!

  20. cathy Avatar

    That is a great room! A happy space:)

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