The Great Bedroom Switcheroo of 1985

(originally posted on on 9/6/14)

I played the bass in Junior High, until I fell down an entire flight of stairs with it at a concert and broke it in half. That seemed like as good a time to quit as any.

I was so excited when I was in fifth grade because my brother decided to switch bedrooms with me. I don’t know why. I had the tiny, closet-like bedroom and his bedroom was much bigger. His was also farther away from Mom and Dad’s room, which really wasn’t that far because our house was tiny, it was maybe like five feet farther away, but it didn’t share a wall. My closet bedroom was right next to Mom and Dad’s room and didn’t have a closet. But he wanted to switch. I won’t question his motives.

Shortly after we did the switch my parents said I could redecorate it. I was SO EXCITED. But we couldn’t tell my grandpa. He would want to help and I guess he wasn’t particularly great at carpentry. One night when he was over for dinner (he came over for dinner a lot, as I recall), I had forgotten I wasn’t supposed to tell him and I was so excited to see the progress that was being made that I blurted out at the table how my room was looking. That opened up a whole can of worms. I remember my mom and dad giving me the stink eye. I remember having to all get up from the dinner table to inspect my Dad’s work. I don’t remember if Grandpa ended up helping or not.

I decided to go full-out princess with my “new room”. My favorite color at the time was baby blue, so I chose baby blue carpet and white paneling for the walls (my family was really big into the paneling, it was in every room except the bathroom). My dad installed a drop ceiling – you know, the kind you find in office buildings with fluorescent lights overhead. We went to Sears to pick out new furniture, and I picked out the set that every girl in the 1980s had, it’s white with gold trim and looks vaguely French Country/Midwest Chic. You can now find it at garage sales across America. What was most exciting was my canopy bed. For some reason, having a canopy bed made me feel like I was rich.

As I got older and started to outgrow the princess look, I started filling the walls with posters. I know for sure I had a Martin Luther King, Jr, poster in my room, I think perhaps it had a quote from his “I Have a Dream” speech on it. Where I got it is anybody’s guess since I grew up in one of the whitest cities in US. I likely put up the posters from all my high school plays. I can be fairly certain I also adorned the walls with tear-out pictures from magazines like Metal Edge. I was in love with Sebastian Bach from Skid Row, so no doubt he was somewhere up there among the mélange, rubbing elbows with Jesus from Godspell.

Although the furniture has disappeared from the room (most likely donated to someone in my family or a family friend), the room still has the baby blue carpet, the white paneling, and the fluorescent, drop-ceiling lighting which I have come to loathe, and which has made me really sensitive to lighting ever since. The carpet even still has the big stain/bleach mark where I had accidentally projectile-vomitted late one night when suffering from the flu, almost immediately after the carpet was installed. That barf went everywhere except in the toilet. All over the floor, the walls, the furniture, sprayed down the hallway as I dashed to the bathroom. Not one drop made it to its desired location.

Now when I go home to visit my parents, I stay in the closet bedroom. My room is now Dad’s office and a place to put things that don’t otherwise have a home. I end up leaving every time with a few new bruises from bumping into furniture that has been squeezed into a shoebox-sized space. There’s just enough room to put my suitcase on the floor, but not enough room to step around it. You have to step over it. You’d think in such a small space the furniture would have nice, rounded corners, conducive to accidental human contact. It doesn’t. It’s all sharp corners and unyielding surfaces. It’s a full-time lesson in grace and agility.

I have daydreams about redecorating my old room for my parents. I could take them to Sears and they could pick out new furniture. I’d take off the paneling, spackle the walls and paint. I’d rip out the drop ceiling and install less seizure-inducing lighting. I’d turn the closet bedroom into a cozy office for my dad, a place where he’d enjoy browsing CraigsList for used riding lawnmowers (my dad collects lawnmowers like other people collect angel figurines or WWII memorabilia).

But for now the room remains the same, stuck in a perpetual “transitional phase” that is emblematic of my entire life. It’s not quite a bedroom and not quite an office. While it may be on the verge of becoming a permanent “junk room”, I have hopes that one day it will be the room of dreams. I don’t know whose dreams, but I have high hopes.