As a little girl, I was fortunate to have a father who had a good job and a mother who had good taste. This facilitated a number of things to my benefit: plentiful food on the table, a charming and well-appointed wardrobe and a lovely big bedroom in the bungalow on Triangle Road.
I was an only child until the age of 9, and this put me in quite a position to be spoiled by mother and father. I was Daddy’s little girl and Mommy’s angel. I had lovely ringlets and big green eyes and was not shy with it, so people were generally drawn to my chattiness, my sweet demeanour and my little coquettish smile. My grandmother apparently thought I was too fussed over and even my aunt warned my mother that she spent too much time worrying about me and not letting me be a kid like my cousin, Janet.
For most of my childhood, youth and young adulthood, I had the most wonderful bedroom. In it, I spent many happy hours reading the likes of the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, colouring in my bird and animal colouring books, playing with Barbie and Dawn dolls and later doing homework, listening to loud music on vinyl records and dressing up for dates.
Mine was no ordinary little girl’s room. When we first moved to the brand new house in the 60s subdivision of Sherwood Homelands, I had the big back bedroom with the hardwood floor and a large sliding window with a view to the backyard and the public junior high school beyond. Many mornings I woke to the songs of my favourite birds: the robin, the cardinal and the blue-jay. I would watch as the buses pulled into the schoolyard each morning, just before I headed off on foot to St. Francis Catholic school.
The decor was not typical for a child; there was no ornate, girly white furniture, like my friend Janey had in her bedroom. There was no captain’s bed with storage underneath; my room was furnished with twin beds handed down from my cousin. These were serviceable, Colonial-style, stained-wood with box-spring and mattress and my mother kitted them out with funky, floral sheets and cherry-red, waled -corduroy bedspreads. The walls were papered in pink and white stripes and the window was draped in the most unique fabric of heavy cream linen with brush-stroke pink and navy-blue women’s heads in stylish hats. I spent many moments staring at those heads and imagining myself in those hats. Perhaps this is why I love hats so much today.
Artwork was also a feature in my fantastic bedroom; those ubiquitous 1960s doe-eyed girls in harlequin and ballet costumes framed in plastic narrow rectangles were paired up on the wall of my room. I had a favourite grey-wood framed, faux-oil of two cats with big sad eyes in pride of place over my bed. Always, there was a frond of dried-up Pascal palm tucked in behind the frame to keep me mindful of my Catholic faith.
When my three-year old adopted sister came into my life, I soon realized that I would have to share my bedroom with her and I was not a bit happy. Pretty soon, she was in the bed next to mine with a collection of new stuffed toys to rival my own menagerie of Teddy, Doggie and Pinky the pajama-bag poodle. Then it was a trip to Hanover, to Smitty’s furniture where we picked out an enormous royal blue square-edged dresser, matching cube night-tables and ladder-back chairs in blue and white.
It sounds awful to admit it now, but I was not a very nice new sister. Once the novelty of having her around had worn off, when we were in the privacy of “my” room, if she were making funny noises and I couldn’t sleep, I would pinch her nose to get her to close her mouth. (This doesn’t work with partners, these days, I just move to another room.)
It turns out, my sister had adenoidal problems and had to go into the hospital to have them removed. (Well, at least I had my room back for a spell anyway.) Much to my chagrin, she survived the operation and came back home, so we had a few years of tussles and sibling scuffles until we were teenagers. At this time, she moved into the guest room next-door with the big double bed reserved for my grandmother when she came to visit from Cape Breton. I finally had “my” room back.
In my teen years, I outgrew the pink stripes and the red spreads. I had seen mural wall-paper in a magazine and I really liked the look of an autumn forest. I convinced my dad to buy it and to redecorate my room. It was fantastic! It covered one wall completely and the rest of the walls were painted in a neutral taupe colour. I loved to lie at the foot of my new queen-sized bed and look in wonder at those paths through the gold-leafed woods. Not surprisingly, I often thought of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.
The clunky cube furniture moved next-door with my sister and I claimed my mom and dad’s old “silver-mink” mirrored and upright dressers for my own. They just went so much better with the woodsy look. I now had long, dark brown heavy drapes that kept the cold winter drafts at bay and the hat-ladies, sadly, went into storage in a wooden box in the basement, never to be seen again.
There was one really strange thing about my new mural. Lying on the bed one evening, I happened to scan the photo and my eyes came to rest in the top left-hand corner. There, I could make out the image of a dark-haired, moustached man in a white shirt with a wide, dark tie. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but looking more closely, I could not deny that he was there. I wondered who this could possibly be. Was it the photographer putting his own image into his work for posterity? I’ll never know, but it was a little disconcerting to have this man who looked not a little like Adolf Hitler peering down at me from the top of my wall.
It seems I was never really meant to have a room of my own, after all.