About a week ago, someone posted an interesting question on Facebook:
When you were a child, did you share a room or even a bed with one of your siblings?
Quite a few remembered that they did share, and a few wrote, “Goodness no!”
One of my clearest childhood memories was made the year I turned 6. I can remember that starting about 2 weeks before my birthday arrived, my parents, grandparents, and even my godparents, spent a substantial amount of time in the basement. I could not imagine why, but I wondered if my granddad was making me a pair of roller skates. I figured he could make anything, and after all, I had asked for skates. On the morning of May 9th, 1959 I woke up early and with great anticipation, I started looking for my presents. But hey… I couldn’t find a single one.
“We need to wait until your grandparents arrive, and then you’ll get your birthday gifts,” said my mother.
Finally I heard their dark green Morris Mini chugging up the street. I could hardly contain my happiness. But Granny and Granddad took such a long time getting out of the car. And of all things, Mom and Dad insisted on taking them downstairs. What was going on?
After taking a careful look for spiders, I noticed a big pink bow on one of the bedroom doors. I had never noticed that the door to this room was varnished. The rest of that lower part of the house contained the laundry room, the furnace, unfinished rooms, spare building materials and lots of tools.
I loved my Granny a lot because she always answered my questions. “Why are we here,” I wanted to know. She suggested I open the freshly varnished door. I turned the knob and inside I discovered the most beautiful bedroom I’d ever seen. “Who would be sleeping here?”
“This is your room Joany,” my mother said, “Granny and Grandad, Uncle Lewis and Auntie Chris, Dad and I all worked on it for you.” Dad and Grandad did the carpentry. The curtains and bedspread were sewn by Granny, and I painted. Uncle Lewis and Auntie Chris brought over the fuzzy, soft, pink bedside rug. I was thrilled. But it didn’t take long for me to catch on to the hard part. I would be sleeping there, in the downstairs by myself. “What if spiders come,” I asked.
Granny passed me a box wrapped with pink paper. Inside I found a statue of Mother Mary. “Our Lady will watch over you,” my grandmother assured me. I still did not feel good about this, so Dad passed me his gift. It was a book. “A special one,” he said, “written for little girls who turn six. He cracked the spine and began to read:
If ever there is tomorrow,
when we’re not together…
there is something you must
always remember. You are
braver than you believe,
stronger than you seem,
and smarter than you think.
But the most important
thing is, even if we’re apart,
I’ll always be with you.
Many will recognise these lines as the Introduction from, “Now We are Six,” by A.A. Milne.
Next Grandad gave me his gift, a little chair he’d made, with my name written on the back.
Mom’s gift was the final one… a flashlight. Wow, such a grown-up gift. “If you need to get up in the night, you can turn it on and you’ll find your way,” she assured me.
I figured I’d be using that flashlight this very night to go upstairs when I couldn’t sleep because of the spiders. But after my full-of-fun day, that included an afternoon party with cake, balloons, games and more presents, I fell asleep and didn’t wake until after 8 am. As I toddled upstairs, I saw my father was cooking bacon and eggs. “Now, today it is your turn to help me make as nice a Mother’s Day for Mummy as your birthday was for you.
My room was just 9’ X 12´, but I didn’t need more. It was my place, separate from my 7 brothers and sisters. And two months after my room was done, Dad and Grandad got my brothers’ rooms finished. Nonetheless, I still had to worry about the spiders because those three boys were terrified of them.
And I have a piece of music that is a perfect wrap-up for this piece… the Beach Boys classic, “In my Room” sung by a 9 year old. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbRGlZWRlbE Thanks for sharing my memory.