I have a room of my own. Virginia Woolf would applaud this I’m sure. I’ve been blessed much of my adult life to have had such a space, a little sanctuary to call my own. In this room, I get to be me. Or at least the me, I imagine myself to be. I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer.
Little back story. Growing up I shared a bedroom with my older sister. Not only did we share a room but much of the time we shared the same bed. A double, which slept two rather comfortably. Sometimes we were strange bedfellows but mostly we were amiable, considering our 8-year age difference. The room we shared was downstairs next to our parents. My two older brothers occupied one of the two upstairs bedrooms. The other room was our “spare” which was cold in winter but a fun place to play, and hang out with Ma while she sewed. By the time my sister moved to the West Coast and my two older brothers were both married, I had moved upstairs to their old room. I finally had a room of my own. It was divine.
There were four things I especially liked about this room. The slanted ceilings, the small attic door next to the closet, the brick chimney next to the door, and the wooden vent on the floor that you could peer down and see into the living room. There was something enthralling about these four details that captured my imagination. I loved to poke around in the attic which was dark and musty and contained the usual things like Christmas ornaments, dance costumes, childhood artwork, old toys and a broken lamp or two. But what was most beguiling was the possibility that buried deep within all this family memorabilia and junk was some mis-placed and forgotten treasure. The vent was both scary and practical. Scary because there was the possibility (although slim) of falling through it and practical because I could drop little notes down to Ma while she was sitting on the couch watching Ed Sullivan. I don’t recall what these messages to Ma said but most likely they were requests for food or drink.
Ma always made our home look lovely. She didn’t have much to work with financially but what she lacked in cash, she made up for in imagination. She just had a knack for this sort of thing and like most women of her time took care of “the decorating.” I use this term loosely because no one spoke that way back then, at least not regular folks like Ma and The Old Man. Decorating meant Ma made things for the house – curtains, table cloths, pillows. She sewed and embroidered. The furniture and appliances were bought on time at Sears or Eaton’s. We weren’t poor but we were also a few miles from the middle of middle class. Everyone in our neighborhood was, so it didn’t really matter. At least not to me.
When it came to my room, Ma graciously handed over the decorating torch and without any strings attached either. I was given free rein to do whatever my heart desired. So I did. I plastered the walls with rock posters and my kitschy-coo personal art. The Old Man painted the chimney white which became the perfect blank canvas for my poetry, lyrics from folk musicians like Dylan and Leonard Cohen, pithy quotes by the pop psychologists of the day. “If you love something set it free. If it comes back, it yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” I somehow found this to have deep meaning back then. It just baffles me now. Somehow we came into possession of an over-stuffed antique maroon velvet tub chair that had worn arms and smelled bad. We put this in the corner for me to curl up in and read. I had a desk that overlooked our driveway and stared directly into our neighbors upstairs window. Thankfully they kept their curtains closed allowing us both the privacy we needed and me with the added blessing of natural light. I also had a record player, and by then a fairly decent collection of LPs which I played continuously. Everything from The Beatles and the Rolling Stones to Dylan and Joan Baez. From Rock to Folk, Motown to Blue Eyed Soul. This music comprised the soundtrack of my life. It was the fire beneath my dreams and it fueled my creative passion.
It was in this little room at the top of a wartime house in the middle of small blue collar town where my dreaming wanderlust began. I read books and dreamed of becoming a novelist. I played rock music and dreamed of becoming a musician. I made my own clothes and dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. I scribbled poems on brick chimneys and dreamed of becoming a poet. I danced in my pajamas and dreamed of becoming a ballerina. I doodled on albums and dreamed of becoming an artist. I gazed out at the stars and dreamed of flying. I cuddled a dog named Sugar Miettinen and dreamed of becoming a mother. I had a typewriter and dreamed of using words to transform lives. I looked down at the street below and dreamed of a life outside of this room and wondered how I would get there.
And here I am. Thousands of miles and many years away. In this room, I write novels and blogs. Play my guitar and write songs. I sing to myself and dance like a wild woman. I gaze out the window at a sweet little pond and a garden full of Garry Oak trees, and I am in awe. Full of wide-eye wonder and gratitude. I’m eternally grateful to Ma and The Old Man for giving me that first room and for allowing me a place to plant the very seeds that my dreams were made of.
Here in this room, I am becoming the woman of my dreams.