Sense of Power: My childhood room

I shared my early childhood room, and as a result, very little of me was in it. I was the youngest, and while I did have toys of my own and one half of a long dresser, visually for the most part it belonged to my sister. Any attempt to assert any aesthetic or interest of my own was treated harshly: a Strawberry Shortcake bulletin board where I posted “goals” (childish ones, because I was a child) were met with accompanying very nasty, discouraging notes from her. I remember an ugly incident where I tore up a Menudo poster while the smirking images of the band watched me from all four walls sticks out in my mind. Duran Duran and Bon Jovi will never be as dear to me as they could be; my sister’s selfish and obsessive nature at the time robbed me of discovering how deep my punk leanings actually ran, and Bon Jovi in my mind is just for the shallow and trashy rather than the merely shallow. This is a shame, as I suspect that were I to meet Jon Bon Jovi or any of his band, I’d probably genuinely respect each as an artist. What could I say? “Sorry, my screaming fangirl sister has really ruined you for me. But you seem really nice. Light on the groupies and cheating. I applaud that.”

The room had blue walls and a red carpet, a sliding door closet with some blue wallpaper and white fuzzy floralesque print over top and two windows. Eventually, my father died in that room.

When my sister and I shared it, we had bunk beds. At first white, feminine things that might be classed as “shabby chic” now. Then my mother got us a dark wood bunk bed that could configure out in an L shape, ostensibly to make more room or to give us the illusion the bed was a room. Only one kind of mattress worked on the contraption, essentially two boards stapled in a cross configuration that had thin padding and some planet-print fabric stapled over top. It was cheap, and I’ve actually seen those mattresses elsewhere in recent years, in a furniture clearance/reject store. I have told the ugly story about breaking that bed, and my mother’s glee in telling every lumber employee that I broke it because I was too fat. Not once in the entire incident did she in any way check my physical welfare.

The closet had bins with different toys and dolls in them, and there was our clothing. Next to the closet was a bureau (now possessed by my ex-husband.) On top was an ancient radio/stereo set. The top half of the bureau held my sister’s clothes, the bottom mine. My sister frequently mined my clothing when I was asleep and would lie like a sociopath when I confronted her about borrowing things without permission. Any attempt on my part to borrow clothing was met with a full-on tantrum, supported by my parents.

For a year, my sister went to Japan. Ostensibly it was to “calm her down” but as far as I could tell, she came back as even more of a narcissist and this left me with a front row view to the reality that my parents were much more concerned that I not embarrass them than they were that I was healthy or even happy. (Happiness was not a value in my family, which may be the “lack” that drew me to Wicca.) In that time, though, the room was in some ways my room: I would listen to Casey Casum count down the top 40 and dance in my bedroom on Sunday nights. I wrote and recorded terrible songs on my Yamaha keyboard (I recently discovered a friend still owns that exact same keyboard.) I wrote stories – some good, some awful. I made up my bed so I could sit on it and read. Occasionally some ghost down the hall that lessened when my sister was absent the house would stick its hand through the door and flip me off. I didn’t pay it much mind.

When I was 15, I was moved to the tiny room in the upstairs of the house that my mother never stopped considering her studio. I was crammed in with a desk, a day bed, a chiffarobe and next to no floor space. My sister and mother both used that space as storage while I lived there, making it clear to me that I was the family member who lived in the cupboard. I did have more freedom to decorate it, at least – a wall of “fame” for boyfriends (that my mother found and drastically misinterpreted, teaching me to time stamp things because her invasions of my privacy were inevitable); several posters about causes pulled out of National Geographic and various inspirational stuff from Operation Snowball events I attended. Also, postcards with antique cars on them.

I like my bedroom now, although I may bring out my favorite stuff animal, a green fire lizard my father bought me when we visited an Indianapolis museum. I don’t know why he felt the need to fuck with me about letting me get it – when my sister asked, they just gave her things. I was always afraid to ask, and I asked so rarely that a yes or no would have sufficed. But I do cherish that lizard.

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