The Importance of Home

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My childhood bedroom: It’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it, and yet I can picture it as though I had been there yesterday.

One of the first memories I have of being in my bedroom is lying paralyzed in bed, terrified by a dream of a bear chasing me all over the neighborhood. I couldn’t move, but I could speak, so I called out for my Dad. He heard me, even though my door was shut and the hallway to his bedroom was long. After being comforted by him, all was well again in my little world, and I fell back to sleep.

I spent hours in my room. It was mine. It was big. It was comfortable. Plus, I liked being alone more than anything. I was always more relaxed with my own company. And a lot of creative work took place in that room. My father, first a newspaper reporter, then a columnist, then a public relations executive, was always my role model. I wanted to be a reporter, too, so I started The Harbor Court Times, named for our street.

My little paper came out on a semi-regular basis, first handwritten, then typed on my manual typewriter using pieces of carbon paper that my Dad would bring home from work. The carbon allowed me to make a couple copies at a time. This was during the late ’60s and early ’70s, before the days when people owned word processors and computers.

The Harbor Court Times, produced in the quiet and privacy of my bedroom “office,” had all the elements of a good newspaper: news on the front page (scintillating stuff having to do with the neighbors…), editorials and opinions on the inside pages, along with an advice column that was the most fun to fabricate.

Besides writing, I always wanted to be a teacher, so at a very young age, my parents bought both me and my younger sister large chalkboards, about three feet by five, on stands, black on one side and green on the other. I rarely used the green side since it didn’t seem authentic. When I would get home from school, my sister would come up to my room and I would teach her what I had learned that day. Thanks to my “lessons,” she had a head start on reading before she even entered kindergarten.

Even though the primary color in my bedroom was red, which I really didn’t like since my favorite by far was blue, the room was nonetheless relaxing and beautiful. There was a darkly-stained four-poster bed, matching bedside table, six-foot wide dresser, a bookcase, red corduroy-covered chair that was way too small to sit in (but pretty anyway), and a desk that my Dad had purchased at one of those naked furniture stores and stained himself. I will never forget picking out wallpaper with my Mom. She let me choose, and the one I selected had an antique-white background and was covered in tiny blue and red flowers. It was so pretty. She said that it looked exactly like the one that had been in my nursery, which I did not consciously remember, since I had been so young when we moved.  Dad hung it for me and did a beautiful job.  Now, I’m so sorry that I don’t have a piece of it tucked away to look at. Near the door was a Persian-style rug, measuring about four feet by six, so it covered a lot of the medium-colored solid oak floor. My room felt elegant, but not ornate.

I had a huge closet, almost an unheard of size for a house built in the early 60s.  It was walk-in deep, too. Besides clothes, I kept all kinds of toys in there, as well. Even more interesting, however, was the medieval kingdom that populated that closet. I was the queen. Nothing very exciting happened in that kingdom during daylight hours, but at night, as I would lie in bed imagining, all the people, with their comings and goings, came to life. It was a powerful feeling to be the ruler of so many people, and yet I was not at all unjust. There were no ridiculous beheadings for fabricated charges of treason.

There were two windows in my bedroom, one on the side of the house and one in the back. The girl who was my best friend throughout most of my childhood, Darlene, lived in the house next door and I could look out my side window to the back of her house.  We tried repeatedly to talk to each other by making paper cup telephones connected by yards of string.

She and I both hated school and tried a couple times to get sick by sticking our freshly-showered heads out our bedroom windows on frosty winter nights. Most times it didn’t work, but once I got really sick and almost regretted it. Still, it was worth being able to stay home for the day.

My sister had the bedroom right next to mine, so when were a little older, being big fans of the old TV show, The Dating Game, we would take turns pretending to be the person selecting and the other would come up with three contestants. The person choosing would then ask lots of questions and end up picking a “date.” My Dad frequently had to remind us to be quiet and go to sleep.

My sister’s room was so much smaller than mine that I always felt bad, as though there were some unspoken favoritism going on about which we must never speak. Rationally, though, I understood that it was because there were three bedrooms available for children and two were quite small. It was logical that I would get the biggest, since I was the oldest, but I knew my sister always thought it was unfair and for a long time I sort of wondered whether or not it was one of the causes of her mental illness.

Even though it was small, my sister’s room was beautifully decorated in yellow and white with two hand-painted dressers, a big bookcase, a rocking chair, a four-poster bed and unique artwork on the walls. The two framed pictures of cats, who looked like they were posing for their portraits, sitting in a proud and statuesque manner, were probably chosen by my mother more for the shades of yellow rather than the subject matter. None of us were ever cat fans.

One of my earliest memories of being in my sister’s room is sitting on my Dad’s lap in the rocking chair, cuddled up with my sister, as he sang lullabies before tucking us in bed. A favorite and regular was “Lavender Blue.” The last memory I have of that room is me staying there right after my third child was born because renovations were going on at my house.

I was in the area of my childhood home recently, so I decided to stop and check something near the front door. I really didn’t expect it to be there since my sister and I have been adults for way too many years to count, and my parents moved out of this house twenty years ago. And yet, it was still there: Written on the red brick to the right of the door are the words, “Amy and Nancy live here. Yeah!” It didn’t look like anyone was home, so I didn’t knock. Besides, I don’t know if I want to be invited in, anyway. I’m still too afraid that seeing all the remodeling that has surely taken place will permanently change the pictures that otherwise are forever etched on my mind.