birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Carrying Your Room With You

I had no single "childhood bedroom" growing up, at least not in those precious, creative and most formative years because my family did not have real stability until age 9 or 10.

The first bedroom of my memory was my Grandma Pearlie's room, because I was in a little crib looking at my parents as they slept and I observed the peeling green paint and wondered how to wake them. That room had an old 1950's dresser, a double bed, and cement floors, which were cool and dark in the little cement-building apartment that my grandmother lived in for decades - part of the housing projects in Gonzalez in the "hood" of Pensacola, FL, although I don't even think they called it that then. We stayed with various relatives for weeks and months at a time all over -- Pensacola, Wichita (Kansas). My dad was a "Self-employed" businessman and painter, but I think he was mainly a con-man.

When my dad "went away" for a while, it was just my mom and me and we basically shared a room. I remember nothing fancy in the way of furniture... I just remember her brightly colored "hippy" clothes all around and curling up next to her warm back in one of our basement apartments. There was always a stack of books she would read to me from frequent trips to the library, and there were amazingly cool or warm sheets that she would tent over us to "camp out" or to use as "theater curtains" to act out books. Instead of bedrooms, most of "my space" were these little nooks I could carve out of a corner or under a piece of furniture to read books.

My first real "bedroom" with decorative furniture and everything featured a white canopy bed with pink Swiss polka dotted drapings. It was like a room on TV or the ones I sometimes sat in when my dad was painting a family home, when the family was gone for a few days. I also had a matching white dresser with a three-fold mirror... I started to become obsessed with looking at myself from every direction, trying different expressions. There was also my favorite possession - a record player. I would dance to my one album, Grease, and a few 45's, over and over and watch myself in the mirror.

When my dad abducted me from my mom after their divorce, the bed and dresser got to come with me somehow! A constant in a chain of moving from one apartment and city to the next with my new vagabond family of two step-sisters and a new baby sister and stepmom. Sometimes all girls had to share one room, and they sort of coveted my bed. At that point I started to fantasize of other rooms, different fabulous rooms in fabulous houses where everyone got along and was happy, because somehow at that point I began to believe money - or lack of it - was the real reason for most unhappiness.

When I finally moved in with my mom again, I brought the bedroom suite with me into the tiny rooms we had in our little rental house and then into another housing project. The furniture always filled up most of the room, but I still had room to dance. Past age 10, I mainly never actually used the canopy, but I loved to take the pointy end from the high posters and use them as fake microphones as I sang into the mirror. When I finally moved out into my first apartment, at 19, I ditched the bedroom suite and gave it to another little girl in the complex, hoping she might dream well in it.

Water Girl