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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

My first room of my own

From the time I was four until I was eleven, my childhood bedroom was on the second floor of my family’s home on 210 Rosewood Drive. My room was on the back corner of the house and had two windows, one looking out on the swing set in the back yard and one looking out at the empty lot next door. (A few years after my family built and moved into our house, the Whitely’s, who were friends of my grandparents, built on the lot next door. All the kids in the neighborhood played war on the excavation site, hurling dirt clods the size of baseballs at each other from behind the enormous red clay dirt mountain).

Probably my mom decorated my room although she may have consulted me since it was painted my favorite color, green. The paint was a dark forest green, probably a semi-gloss and it had a soft pebbly effect, nothing like the smooth flat paint in vogue today. The room would probably have been a dark cave if it hadn’t had those two large windows. My bed was a double with a maple wood head board. There was a matching dresser with a mirror against the wall that abutted my parents’ room at the front of the house.

The best part of my room was the window treatment. I had custom-made pinch-pleated draperies on traverse rods so I could pull a cord to open and close them just like a stage curtain. The fabric was a small floral print with a dark green ground covered by tiny red roses, almost like a calico.

I remember there was a night light plugged into the wall next to my closet. It was just a socket on one side and a plug on the other. One day I noticed the socket was empty and something shiny was inside it. It was bright orange-gold and reflecting the sunlight coming in my window. The bulb must have burned out and someone unscrewed it to find another the right size. I couldn’t stop looking at that tiny bright shiny thing wondering what it was. Finally, I put an exploratory finger in the socket and touched the shine. The electric current surged through my body and sat me back on my bottom. That was an early science lesson I could have lived without. It’s a miracle I had any curiosity left after that shock.

My brothers and I had a playroom over the garage so I don’t remember having a toy box or toy shelf in my room. I probably kept my dolls and their clothes in a red metal doll trunk in my closet. I know that my friends and I played a lot with our “Little Women” Madame Alexander dolls when we had sleepovers. But I remember my room as tidy—not much mess strewn around.

When I was eleven we moved to a new house by a lake in the country a few miles away. My new room was much smaller and I had to give up my double bed and settle for a daybed with a trundle to accommodate overnight guests. I was sad to leave the Rosewood Avenue house and the neighborhood where many friends lived so close that we could walk or bike to each others houses in less than five minutes.

The day we moved I was very emotional or “dramatic,” as my mother said. I’m sure I was annoying and making a scene as I went from room to room saying my farewells to the spaces that had sheltered me physically and emotionally during my pre-adolescence and the terrors associated with Korean War. It was hardest to leave behind the rose printed draperies. I was sobbing as I literally kissed them good-by.

Wallpaper, Lots of it

"Shag hides dirt."