This was once my bedroom.
There was a time when this room was packed full of the stuff of life…
From a crib made in the mid-1940’s, I would look out at the flowered wallpaper. Maybe a mobile hung just out of my reach, and moved about when a breeze caught it from a partly opened window. Maybe I held onto a teddy bear, tightly…oh, so tightly…to keep my young boy dreams from turning into night terrors.
In the early 1950’s, my crib found a new home in the attic where it stayed until my mother sold it to a neighbor. I had a small single bed…a “Hollywood” bed, my mother would call it. It remained in that room until someone bought it and dismantled it and walked away with it when my wife, my brother and I had the tag sale a year after my father died. I could never fall asleep on that bed. My mother tried everything. She put in a little white AM radio and I would listen to Doris Day singing “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?” so often, I thought it was the only song that existed. I would crawl from that bed and creep to the top of the stairs. Below me, in a dark living room, the black and white TV flickered. I would call quietly to my mother and tell her I couldn’t sleep. She’d have me come down to the sofa and together we’d eat chives and cheese on saltines.
Eventually she’d send me to bed again. There was a landing halfway up the stairs. I would almost always linger and ask her whether the war was ever going to come to Owego.
“No,” she would say. “Korea is a long way off.”
I would linger still. I was fearful of something. I knew there were no monsters under my bed…but I was afraid.
“Promise me you won’t die before me,” I would ask her every night.
“I promise,” she would replied. She never kept her word on that.
In high school, I would lay on the bed, see it? Below the sconce. I read Macbeth during the summer (I wasn’t even required to do so). It put me into a dark mood of evil and murder. I should have been reading Romeo and Juliet instead.
I spent my final night in that bed the day before I went away to college. A few months later, I sat on the same bed with my father during the Christmas holiday and cried. I cried because my childhood girlfriend had broken up with me. He sat and watched. He didn’t know what to say to me.
He was like that.
Years later, the bed was against the left wall. The empty left wall. I was living at home because my marriage had fallen apart. I was not a teacher in Connecticut anymore…I was working as a temp in IBM and living at my parent’s house. It was the worst humiliation you can imagine. But it was the same old bed in the same old room that had seen me grow up and become a man.
Just around the corner, there by the radiator, a doorway led into the hallway. On the molding of the door sill, there were many pencil marks and dates. I had kept track of my son’s growth. How fast it all happens. How fast they grow. It’s all painted over now.
In 1992, I came to the bed at 8:00 am to try to sleep. I had been up all night watching The Robe on TV. It was Easter Sunday morning…what else would they be showing? Behind me, on a hospice bed, my mother was dying.
I came to that bed and closed my eyes. Not thirty minutes passed when my sister-in-law came and knocked.
“Pat, I think you should come downstairs. Your mother is gone.”
Now, the bedroom is empty. The family that bought the house, sold it not too many years later.
The photograph above was taken by a real estate agent.
It shows a bare room, a radiator, a sconce and two windows. You can hardly see the trees that are bending over the front porch.
And, you can not see the stuff that used to be in that room.
Not unless you close your eyes and try to imagine a baby sleeping there and then, quick as blowing out a candle, you may be able to see the stuff that belongs to the ages of a man’s life.