- Sue Hawley
The Spare Room
You’d think once the kids have moved out of the house we would rush to re-purpose their once coveted abodes of comfort: the bedroom they declared ‘private space’. I was pretty old school concerning these declarations while my kids were growing up---we pay the bills, so you don’t really have the right to ‘private space’. I respected all of our teenagers need for privacy but parents are wise not to take this idea too far; most teenagers are self-centered to the point of ridiculous.
When they finally strike out on their own a sense of nostalgia washes over parents and we tend to remember only the good pieces and parts of the growing up years. Until we actually decide to re-purpose their old bedrooms. As we wade through all the crap they have left behind but swear they will eventually need, we slowly begin to remember all the irritating bits: forgetting trash doesn’t belong in their closets, under the bed, or stuffed into drawers to be forgotten and/or ignored for the remainder of their lives, sweatshirts that have seen better days but they have to save forever because, well, just because, forgotten toys that should have been thrown away years ago, furniture they begged you to keep just in case. Just in case of what, exactly? They shrug but beg you not to get rid of ANYTHING. Maybe this is a deep-seated need to hold onto childhood. I have no idea but it’s irritating, not to mention a waste of perfectly good space.
Sadly, many of us sigh and close the door until another day, which turns into years. The room fills with other stuff you have no idea what to do with but are convinced it needs to be saved. When you reach the point you can barely open the door to an overcrowded room, you realize you must take control of the situation.
So, you rent a storage unit and drag all their junk to live somewhere else while you reclaim square footage you’ve been dreaming about probably since they first entered those teenage years. You organize your own crap and stand back as you proudly survey the room. That’s when you notice you forgot to get rid of the sports themed wallpaper that’s been on the walls since 1990. How could you have not remembered to tear it off and start fresh? Maybe, just maybe, you are guilty of not wanting to rip out every piece of their childhood. That wallpaper was put on the walls when your son was at the magic age when he still liked you and wasn’t embarrassed when you told him you loved him. Peeling it off would be as bad as ripping memories off your heart.
In my book, Midlife Mayhem, Peg needs to redecorate one of her kid’s bedrooms for an expected visit from her oldest son and his girlfriend. Her memories wash over her and she dreads the prospect of demolishing her sons childhood abode. To be honest, I had little hesitation in this area, but that might be because we had five kids and as each moved out it gave us needed space for the next in line. Bedrooms were overhauled out of necessity as the last three kids were finally able to have their own rooms. The only room I avoided was what had been the nursery. Yes, it still has sports themed wallpaper. But it is what we now laughing call ‘The War Room’ since it houses my husband's reenactment gear from three American wars: Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and The Civil War. Uniforms, outdoor equipment, and an array of antique replica weapons now reside happily in the old nursery. Along with fabric I refuse to discard (that fabric was expensive and could be used by, well, someone!) and odd bits and pieces that found their way into a safe harbor. The room is stuffed with our crap now and that is strangely comforting.