We lived in that house for 17 years. That childhood bedroom was my bedroom. Despite the changes, it was where I did my living. It was where I did my growing. To mirror my transformation into full on teenager it too got a make over. I went through puberty, it went through Hurricane Andrew. It struck in 1992, when I was 13. I got new boobs and a new bedroom.
The original bedroom was adorned with pastel striped wallpaper. They were thin vertical stripes. Pinks, purples and light blues. My family in Montreal had the same paper in a primary color combination, it is still in their guest bedroom today. I visit there and am taken back to these times and my little girl days.
To match the walls there were two pink and light blue bedspreads decorated with butterflies in a soft water colored way, made for the two twin beds. They were sitting on white four poster beds, placed under one of two windows in the room. All of the furniture was white. Including a large shelving unit placed on top of the dresser. It was across from my beds and next to the desk, which was wedged in the corner. It stood tall to the ceiling. Housed my books, my piggy bank collection and stuffed animals. Namely, a large pink elephant that was all the way on top of the shelves. To reach him I had to put one leg on the dresser and grab onto the shelves to pull my whole body up. There was always a fear the shelves would crash on top of me, but that never deterred my mission. I still grabbed onto the shelf for support. When I got up there, I had a very small space to stand on, where the shelves didn't cover the entire dresser. I reached gingerly up to grab the top up to the elephant. I would then quickly, in one move, reach for the elephant and throw it down to the floor then jump back down landing on my knees. My grandfather gave it to me. Over the years it became smaller and smaller, though that was my perception. I became bigger and bigger. Isn't that always the case, memories become less impressive and smaller with time? The same was true of the Raggedy Anne doll, also a present from my grandfather, she sat next to the elephant and given to me when I was a newborn. In honor of my chosen name.
The desk was in the corner next to the other window. I could look to the right and peer into the backyard. There was a playscape, a swing set and a small canal that ran the length of the yard. Nothing glamorous about living on the water. It was industrial like, teeming with cat fish. On sunny bored afternoons we fished for them using salami and left over stale bread. I don't recall ever catching one, because what would I have done with a catfish? Small boats and canoes traveled down the canal. Our neighbors enjoying the outdoors. The dog ran up and down the bank chasing after them and barking. Protecting her yard. I sat at my desks on Saturday listening to Christopher Cross and writing. The fan was on high and all the blinds were up. It was bright, cool and comfortable. The sounds of the lawn mower or my parents busy with weekend house hold chores, echoed in the background or outside the window. I made up stories and wrote a book at one point. I was in the fourth grade and pasted it over an existing book, cover and all. My story bound and “published”. I was proud of the book and that I created an entire story line; including three creative names of movie titles the characters wanted to see. That. That, I was very prideful of.
The closest was closed with rickety doors, painted white. There were two large doors and the wheels squealed when opened, often times sticking due to age, humidity and paint. They required a strong arm and a tug to get them closed. Above that there were two small doors used for storage. Up there, in the storage, were remnants of my past, drawings from preschool and arts and crafts projects completed in kindergarten, that my parents dutifully kept. Stored in boxes and old x-ray sheets to protect them and because that was what we had available to us. The green leaves holding remains of my even earlier childhood. I would take special pride and passion in bringing down those boxes and digging through my memories. Sitting on the carpet in the middle of the room, my legs crossed with dust covered paintings and first grade report cards surrounding me. On the wall next to the closet were two diplomas, one from kindergarten graduation and later one from fifth grade graduation. The room ended there, no more graduations to display.
The room ended there too, the summer before eighth grade it was ruined. The windows blew out, there was damage to the roof and water came in from all over. It smelled like rotten fish. I got a do-over. Same house, new room. Having to give that up, and not by choice, leaves it all as a fuzzy memory. Warm from the love my parents created, cool from my recollection of Florida air conditioning