Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Growing Room

1990: During the second expansion: no wall between my room and the living room!
Our little home was once a trailer. I remember cleaning out garbage bags full of beer cans and bottles from it before we brought it to the island to live on. I believe I was about 5. I chose the nice sunny room at the front. It was tiny, but it was bright. It had a lovely white and gold linoleum floor, a sliding metal window, and was very close to the oil furnace that I don't believe we ever used. My parents installed a woodstove behind my wall, and my Pappa enlarged my room by replacing the long closet with a very small one.

During my late teens I painted my walls...
I remember many nights staring up at the pressboard ceiling above my bed, imagining swooshes of grass and wind and being both comforted and annoyed by the repetition of the pattern.

As the years passed, my Pappa enlarged my room twice more, expanding into the living room, until my room was more than twice its original size. I got another window, and even, eventually, a carpet. I grew up in that room, until I was 17 and we moved away - my family to the interior and I to my supposed adult life.

I left behind the room I was so attached to, the room that had my fears and comforts, joys and sorrows, memories and forgotten experiences embedded in its walls.

But seven years later I came back with my husband, of course. And there was no better room for a baby room than my own dear room. So we peeled off the Winnie-the-Pooh paper installed by previous tenants, and created a space worthy of our most precious treasures: our children.

The walls were cream coloured and blue with a chair-rail, and eventually I painted trees for the children, too. 

The room held their dreams and hopes and fears from cradle to crib to bunk bed, and it also held their father and me on those many sleepless nights as we grew into parenthood.

Thirteen years of growing up!

 To document the treasured history of the room, I painted it:

An old, wise, fairy-inhabited maple tree for my thoughtful son, and a fresh young cherry tree, just brimming with magical activity for my brave and adventurous daughter.

With great thanks to Rien Portvliet, whose paintings I replicated, I commemorated my childhood with my brother, my parents becoming grandparents, and the working and growth of the land. And of course I commemorated the enormous growth we were making at that time, becoming parents.

It's been a long time. My hair is beginning to turn grey and my chin to sag. My children are reaching for the threshold of adulthood. There are two generations of childhood in this room, not to mention the history of the families who lived here before we did, and between, while we were living away. We'll never know all that these walls hold. We won't even know each other's memories, although we do share them. And now the room is gone.
This week we are pulling it all apart. Both children now have rooms at the back of the house, and this lovely south-facing room will become our kitchen. It's going to be a wonderful kitchen, but we all felt we needed an opportunity to say goodbye to the room. So we cleared all the toys and furniture, and had a nachos picnic on the floor, while talking about our memories. The kids shared memories of games they played in the bunk bed, the various things they've drawn and written on the walls, the dreams and nightmares they've had in the nights, here. I shared memories of my childhood and teens; I showed them how very small the room was when I first moved into it, and the marks from where their Opa made it bigger for me. We talked about the times we slept in the room all together when the kids were frightened, and remembered all the evenings standing in a family hug, singing their favourite songs.  Last night we played train tracks until late in the night, when we climbed up into the top bunk to read the stories we treasured when they were very young.

Finally we took the planets down, and today even the bed is gone. The walls are coming down, and the room is no more.

But we all have history in this room. We all have memories to guide our journeys, and to treasure for their significance. There will be other memories, and hopefully a few more lifetimes of nourishing foods made in the new kitchen.

Goodbye, old room. Thank you for keeping us all.

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