I was nine-years old when I first got a bedroom to myself. We were moving from our small 2-bed/1-bath Hollywood apartment where I shared a room with my younger brother, to what seemed like a palatial 3-bed/2-bath apartment in Redondo Beach. I felt like a Princess.
New furniture was soon ordered – it was as if Oprah had traveled back in time and landed in our new home; “New bedroom furniture for YOU!!” as she pointed to my mother, “and for YOU!!” as she pointed to my brother. When she got to me, my face would be smiling up at her, waiting for the ..and YOU, but her finger just sort of faltered and went down to her side as she just shrugged and *zooiipppp* immediately traveled back into the future that she lived in.
Waah-waah-waaaaaaah goes the trombone, as the camera pans in on the lone hot tear dribbling down my cheek.
My mother had a thick rich oak bedroom set when we lived in Hollywood; double sized bed with high headboard and glorious thick footboard, a highboy dresser that I almost couldn’t reach the top of. Matching nightstand and the piece de resistance; a beautiful 7-drawer vanity with a huge oval mirror perched on top. While the furniture was definitely feminine with the vanity and all, the sheer weight and size of it almost made it feel masculine. One could almost expect it to be named something like Silvanus, God of Wood. Overall spectacular heavy furniture for an adult, but a little too heavy for a nine-year old.
Regardless of whether it should be a child’s or not, it was decided it made no sense to buy that third set when we had a perfectly usable one here.
I was told to pick the color I wanted to have my room and my mother would take care of the rest of it.
“Red!” I said triumphantly. I was destined to be a woman of boldness, even at the age of nine.
“Try again”, my mother responded dryly. My dreams of a dashing red bedroom immediately disintegrated, and all I could think was “Why ask what I want if you’re just going to say no?”
“Blue!?” I said with a tad less enthusiasm and more of a question. I really wanted a red bedroom.+
“Nooooo…”, she responded, and I soon figured this clearly was not me getting what I wanted, but instead more of a game of figuring out the color my mother already had in mind.
I finally scored on the third try when I said, “Yellow.”, but with a lot less enthusiasm. I just wanted to get the answer right.
So yellow it was. Sort of.
Now my mother was an artist and while eclectic, I always thought a pretty good judge on interior design. Our homes were always a little weird, but weird-good, not weird-weird. We definitely never had the a-typical oil painting of the woods hanging over our couch. She liked unique artists and posters. She had a great eye for placing artwork, and furniture in the right place. Looking back, I’m certain that her choice was very of the moment, but in retrospect all I can think of is how that beautiful, never-did-anyone wrong, raw thick beautiful oak furniture that-should-have-been-named-Silvanus was completely decimated and embarrassed just to create a child’s room.
She painted it vivid bold orange, very in tune with the avocado green shag carpeting running through the house. It was accented with a yellow gingham bedspread, coordinating sheets and matching white lamp with a gingham lamp shade. She spent days, painstakingly getting it just right, and like a cherry on the top finished it off with four perfect little felt applique flower stickers on the footboard.
This was a 70’s dream of a little girl’s bedroom. She definitely loved me.
This isn’t the bedroom furniture, but the palette is just about the same.
It wasn’t brand new, but it was brand new to me. And it was made especially for me. It took two days for the paint to completely dry. When it was all said and done I was thrilled. My first night in my crisp yellow checkered sheets wrapped up in my new golden gingham bedspread were bliss. I loved this new furniture and promised to take perfect care of it.
I’ll say this much, it really did feel like a huge bed, and all of the furniture felt very grown-up. Maybe too grown up when I weeks later discovered, a book left behind in the nightstand*. It was a small paperback dedicated to the art of giving the perfect blow-job. Yup. It might have even been titled “The Perfect Blow-Job” or something very similar. You’d think this kind of material would have been shocking, but we were a family of true reader’s, which always means bathroom reading material, so I had been reading Erica Jong’s “The Fear of Flying” while sitting on the toilet for a few months now. At nine no less. I knew this new book was something I should tell my mother she left behind, but not before I read it.
I knew waaaay too much about the technicalities of sex, at waaaay too early of an age. To be honest I don’t think I really got much understanding out of it. I knew the words and I understood the details of the actions, but I didn’t really get the mechanics. The only thing I remembered about the book was something called the Butterfly Flick and in another chapter the suggestion of whipped cream. I loved whipped cream. How could they dirty it like this? As well, I can’t tell you any longer what the Butterfly flick actually was, but I definitely recall the terminology. Jesus, in thinking about it, I really hope it’s not like a butterfly kiss, because that is just wrong.
Moving on …
Of course that burly, thick, once-proud, now embarrassingly orange painted furniture was put to the test of a growing child, pre-teen, and teenager who at this point didn’t appreciate it one ounce. The first foray was probably within the first year of owning it when I accidentally spilt rubbing alcohol on the vanity which immediately cracked and peeled the orange paint. I tried to hide it from my mom, but using her super mom powers, she quickly found out and was furious. It was like she had willed me a beautiful car and I had taken it out and smashed the front end into a tree. There was no fixing it, so I figuratively drove the once beautiful beast around, crushed in for the remainder of its life. To make matters worse, years later I made the same spill on another area of the vanity. I think she was over me keeping it nice looking by then.
Why not give me this car, and then blindfold me and ask me to drive it? Same results as the furniture.
I’m a slow learner, only accented by being a complete klutz.
I’ve always had a penchant for redesigning and redecorating, even as a kid. Makes me feel like I am in a new surrounding, so I would push and pull this heavy furniture around, putting pressure on the wrong areas, until I finally broke the inside on one of the side rails of the bed, and had to prop up the mattress with a couple of suitcases I found in my closet. Next came the leg of the heavy dresser, which snapped off when the pressure of my light frame put all of my strength into pushing it into a new position. Add to that, those painstakingly applied footboard applique flowers were too tempting not to peel off on boring Saturday mornings. Only half remnants of them remained as a reminder of what had been.
When we moved seven years later, the only thing that made the cut was the headboard which was nothing more than a prop, and the cracked and peeling vanity. Poor Silvanus. He had been dressed up and made to play tea party, and was now nothing more than a 16 year old’s embarrassment. I was too old for orange, but too lazy and inexperienced for stripping and sanding furniture. Finally we just threw the headboard away and placed the bed on the floor. The yellow gingham was gone, and replaced with a dark purple satin comforter that screamed I’m-so-fucking-cool. The 70’s were gone, long live the 80’s.
Of course I couldn’t have possibly known back then that that furniture would be the last “new” and matching set of bedroom furniture I would have in 40+ years. Pretty much the only new stuff that came through the doors when I was an adult with the exception of some ugly financed oak trimmed couch and matching love seat in the mid 80’s, were for the babies that grew to be children. Cribs, beds, dressers. As the years went by, furnishing living rooms, kids rooms and dining rooms always took precedence for this single mom, but most of it was hand-me-down. Nice hand-me-downs, but hand-me-downs nevertheless. For a short time I worked for an furniture import company and I got a couple of new pieces. A dresser each for Sam and I, along with a dining room hutch. I treasured those for years.
At one point I did score a beautiful comfortable couch and overstuffed chair from my best friend who got married and wanted newer furniture, very soon after purchasing this set. Their marriage didn’t last, but that couch set did. Up until our new dog decided it was a perfect chew and rip toy.
Kids and pets, man. They don’t appreciate a damned thing. I realized how hard (and honestly ungrateful for any luxury) kids were on stuff, and I guess I sort of got why my mom only invested in one set of new bedroom furniture. My brother’s bedroom never got a make-over either, and by high school he still had the same Jack-N-Jill type bedding, with old Hot Wheels stickers partially peeled off his once new, but totally veneered dresser. (The wood snob in me curled my lip at the word veneer)
Fast forward, and with the purchase of the new house and the destruction of the favorite couch, I finally invested in some BRAND NEW furniture. Bar height dining set that could seat up to six. Wrap around couch (that is really too big for my small place, but what the heck) with chaise. Rugs, tables, artwork. I did the whole shebang really. And each night I would leave the beautifully furnished living areas and go into my completely mis-matched bedroom, still not fully unpacked years later, with dust piling up in areas of stuff I really didn’t want to begin with.
I told myself year after year that with this tax return, or this raise, or this bonus. this anything — I would finally invest in new bedroom furniture. I did have a new mattress. Well once it was new. An old boyfriend got it for me for Christmas many many moons ago, and like receiving a vacuum, you might not initially jump up and down with the same enthusiasm of a diamond, I eventually came to appreciate it much more than any rock you could offer me.
But I didn’t invest. I found vacations that needed cash, or fixing this or replacing that.
Last month I started to notice my shoulder was aching when I woke. The new mattress, was really closer to something like 15 years old, and while it appeared in fine shape, my body was telling me otherwise. I started to look around, and with the help of some wonderful people I was just about to lay some dough out, when my poor old dresser made a wheezing sound. I had been jam packing items in this little pine beauty for more than twenty years. Her joints were coming loose, and every once in a while she would exclaim “No more! Not one more sock or t-shirt!” and I’d think Well one more sock can’t hurt… Until one more sock did, and I realized I could take her apart and fix those loose joints, but the moment I put this much into her, I’d be in the same position. Some might ask, “Wouldn’t it have been cheaper to pare back on the number of clothes you had?”. I have no room in my life for those people, because they clearly do not know or understand me.
I thought on it and realized I could tough it out on the bed for maybe another year, but having a place to put my clothes was non-negotiable. I went furniture shopping days later. Researched like crazy. Told myself just a dresser. And nightstand, because let’s be honest; this mismatch of items was crazy. Pine dresser, with mahogany bookshelf, and a dark walnut stained lingerie drawer doubling as a cramped nightstand was getting old.
Grow up! Stop living like a professional in the front half of the house and a beatnik in the back!
I went into the first store, armed with knowledge and prices and options. And there she stood. Bathed under the glow of warm lights. Maybe it was the heat blinding me, but it was love. I brushed it off, because I wasn’t looking for a bed. I took my sheet of researched pictures and stats and went searching for the dresser and nightstand, I needed. I’m not here for a bed. I firmly told myself. The items I had picked online were absolute crap. The drawer pulls felt like plastic. I started to notice a huge difference in the quality between the cheap stuff and the nicer stuff.
All the arguments went through my head, pros vs cons. I was really torn on this. A nice dresser was about 2 ½ to 4 times more than what the cheaper stuff was. I paced back and forth wondering if I should mix this cheap with that pricey item. I finally made all my compromises and placed a tentative order. Because as I told the salesman, I had no intention of just walking in and buying something without thinking it out.
Famous final ironic thought.
And then I readied myself to walk out the store, but not before passing that damn gorgeous bed I saw when I first walked in. Intentionally.
I walked right up to her, and thought, “I freaking want this.”
She spoke to me. A bed has never spoke to me. She coyly flirted and winked and offered me a seat. I noticed how well she seemed to be made. I noticed how the nail accents on the sides of her footboard and headboard sort of twinkled. I also noticed her price and she waited for me to wince. I didn’t. A fine piece of furniture is worth a heftier price I reminded her. Her nails shimmered more. Take me home, she whispered. We’ll see, I said with a wink.
We both knew.
The sales associate came my way, and made notice of my making notice. He asked if I was interested. I hemmed. I hawed. I mentioned how I didn’t think the dresser and nightstand I had on the tentative order would really go with her. He agreed. I think he would have agreed had I said that furniture needs to be nailed to the ceiling, at this point. He knew I was smitten and trying to hide it.
Then I looked one display over and saw this rough rustic wood. Kind of masculine. Almost the opposite of her very feminine build. The lighting was deceiving I noted, but did that rough furniture also have some undertones of grey? (The bed is a deep dark tufted gray) He took the display lamp off of the nightstand and picked it up, and set it next to her. I noticed the smell of all wood, no veneer, waft thru my nostrils. The grey tones I thought I saw came thru. This was solid furniture. Probably the last bit of furniture I would ever need to purchase I mused. I realized that honestly, not even taking price into consideration, this was the set I would want if it were free, or ten times the listed price.
I was sold.
It didn’t feel like that rushed impulse buy, even though technically it kinda was. It felt more like this was the reason I waited as long as I did. Zero interest they said. I’ll take it, I said. As my groaning credit card was swiped, I thought back to all of the new bedroom furniture I had over the years and realized with the exception of the groaning dresser, I’ve never owned new bedroom furniture. I deserved this.
Delivery was set for the following week (I needed time to get things ready). With the help of a friend, we moved things, and threw things out, and wheezed our way through five years of dust balls and cobwebs. My lack of pride on using this room for anything more than a place to sleep was sorely evident. As time approached closer to delivery my excitement was huge. In fact I hadn’t been this excited since I was nine years old, and the unveiling of the painted Silvanus was completed.
When the delivery men got there, I stayed out of their way, until finally one came out and pointed two fingers at his eyeballs, and then the same two at my new room. I felt like an expectant father in 1960, getting ready to go and see his newly born babe. I walked in and my breath was taken. It still needed some personalization, but it was gorgeous. The deliverymen left and I was all smiles. I laid on the unmade bed, and inhaled that deep aroma of wood furniture and started making it mine. When it was all said and done, I actually hugged that big beast of a high boy dresser.
The bed is dark rich grey, and the furniture is deep mix of blackened rough wood with hints of greys and browns.
Plus have I mentioned? The bed matches my cat perfectly. I mean like it was built for her. We both seem to love the bedroom now. It could be that I am in there, so she is, but yesterday and this morning I found her playing at the foot of the bed.
I like that both sets of bedroom furniture were and are solid wood. I like that this new set is sort of a masculine earthy set, just like Silvanus, the God of 1970’s Wood. In fact this set, with its number of pieces is sort of homage to the old. I promise I won’t paint it any color, regardless of the trend, or big eyed child that comes my way.
It’s sort of funny that what I set out to buy, a new mattress – was shelved. It’s okay. The old was a double pillow top and they dont make those anymore. With a flip and a twist, I have what sort of feels like a newer mattress. Maybe one not so old? And heck there are always tax returns, bonuses, and found money that can be used on a new mattress, down the road. 😉
+ I sort of got the red bedroom all those years later, in the form of bedding, and accouterments. Guess what? Red is totally overrated.
*I’ve always questioned how she could have painted the drawer front that the book was placed in and not heard, seen, or felt the movement of a small paperback book. She HAD to open the drawer, even a bit, to keep the drawer from being painted shut. One of those little life mysteries.