blue and white and memory

This morning I offer you a few blue and white pictures from the weekend, and fond memories of a bedroom that I occupied as a ten year old.

Blue and white was the color scheme of my bedroom in “the Glory Drive house” (we moved so much as a family that our houses had nicknames).  Glory Drive was a dead end street in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on the very edge of town.  It was a suburban neighborhood, like you might find outside any number of New England cities, but with a difference.  Since we were on the outskirts of town, our property backed up to a big grassy field with a barn and our neighbors across the street overlooked acres of Burgner’s Fields where they grew cow corn.  A small wooded mountain snaked with creeks and paths rose up behind the barn.

The fenced field semi-contained a goat.  He escaped from his enclosure on many occasions, and to my mother’s dismay nibbled on the young trees she was busily planting, attempting (as she always did) to beautify our yard.  As ten, eight and twelve year olds, we were more captivated with its bucking personality and its bodily functions – primarily its theatrical act of pissing.  This goat would nonchalantly let loose a thunderous stream on the dirt road, creating poofs of dust. Of course we found this hilarious.

Further up the hill, past the barn and into the woods, were great climbing trees, a creek, and way up the top of the hill – an old abandoned dam.  Behind the dam, a tiny reservoir opened to the sky.  The dam probably stood forty feet high, and one could carefully walk its narrow upper edge, or walk underneath it, through its dark and moist underside, where the many cracks in the cement seeped water and hardly created confidence in the structure’s soundness.  It was spooky.  Many hours were spent up there doing what kids do – wandering around, playing school, splashing in the creek, gathering leaves, and later, smoking hashish.

My bedroom was square and fairly large – I’d guess this many years later that it was 12 x 12 or maybe even a little bigger.  When my mother inherited some furniture from her childhood (I can’t remember if this was after my grandmother’s death, or before… ), she painted it all white.  Boom!  Wood gone!  And then, in what I now consider a daring move, she and my father painted the walls midnight blue.  We’re talking dark.  Verging on black, really.  She then sewed up curtains in the Blue Onion print, which tied it all together and lent a major dose of cheeriness to a now very unique and put-together bedroom.  It was an early lesson in invention, taking risks, and re-purposing items.  My mother was a bit of a genius at these things.

What do you remember about an early bedroom?  What do these memories reveal about us as adults?

19 thoughts on “blue and white and memory

  1. deedeemallon

    PS That is my current bedroom in the first picture… I don’t have the nerve (or the spousal agreement) to paint the furniture white, though I have thought about it.

  2. Lisa Eaton

    I love the image of goat peeing. I can see the dust!

    I recall my two childhood bedrooms very well, and with great love. The one ‘down at the other house’, the term used to refer to what is now Angus and Karen’s house, was a large room, probably 16×18 or so, but it slept 4 kids. Dan had his own bed, Angus and Josh had bunk beds parallel to Dan’s, and my small bed was perpendicular to the boys’ bed arrangement, with some floor space separating my area from theirs. I loved that room. I loved that entire house, and is what I think of with warmest memories of growing up. It didn’t feel small to me. It felt right. It felt home. It felt warm, both literally and figuratively.

    When I was 7 and just after Niles was born, we moved up the hill to ‘the new house’ which is still the name that lives in my brain. When we moved there, it was to subfloors and studs for walls. When at last my room (10×12 maybe?) was created and private (except for Niles’ crib/toddler bed), I had a room bedecked by Sears and Roebuck. The bed I slept on was a day bed, with bolsters which I never removed. That twin sized bed could be opened up into 2 side by side twin beds if I had a friend sleep over. I believe it is the bed that, in its opened state, my parents slept on for the first many years of their marriage. When opened, it had an iron bar that ran down the center, separating the two sides. Josh and I sometimes refer to it as the conception bed, which is now a puzzle to me as I think of that cold, hard, iron bar with hinges on it. My mother went whole hog to make that room into the perfect girl’s room, and I did love it whole heartedly. The wallpaper, the bedspread, the curtains (the ONLY room in the house with curtains, and when I outgrew that floral print, there were never again curtains in that house), the bolsters, everything had the same floral print: huge (10″ at least) pink, peach and red crowded flowers, perhaps dahlias, on a little bit of white background. I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. Angus, on the other side of the temporary wall which included built in book cases, had his wallpapered wall covered with a psychedelic print, which I think was actually contact paper, that said LOVE in all kinds of groovy scripts and creative configurations. So un-Angus-like, but as I recall, he had chosen it.

    Grace now loves her very own room. She has been in it for 5+ years, and it is on its second generation look. She loves loves loves it. When we talk with her that some day she might like to move into the guest room because it’s bigger, she questions our sanity.

    It’s good to be happy in your own room.

  3. Lisa Eaton

    The picture from your current bedroom looks a bit like a chess piece, the Queen. Our current headboard and foot of the bed look like a comb. Makes me smile out loud every time I think your comb observation.

  4. Dee Mallon

    Hi Lisa, what nice descriptions of your childhood bedrooms! We still call our 12-year old family room, “the New Room”. I suppose it’ll ALWAYS be the new room.

    Ken was conceived in OUR bed – which might be part of my impulse to change it early (though I don’t still think about this much)… at least we replaced the mattress.

    Do you have any scraps of those curtains left? It would be wonderful to work with to make something for Grace, wouldn’t it?

    When we offered C. the option to take the bigger room, he declined. I assume for similar reasons as Grace’s. His teeny tiny room was just fine, thank you very much. Right now, we are aware that it made the switch to a dorm room much easier for him… about the same size.

  5. Michelle in NYC

    this is serious writing, and breezy with images that truly visualize. I wish I had the energy this morning to share my own mothers fashioning of a bedroom for me (very little girlie, including stencils on the furniture hand painted by her), one I occupied only briefly before out family’s collapse on the death of my father….but I don’t. It’s been a wearying weekend of new kids renting in the building, and worrying this old gal with their outrageous exuberance into the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings. The subsequent lack of sleep has left me foggy. Just so you know I appreciate this post a lot!

    [Dee]: Thanks for noting your appreciation, even though you are so tired, Michelle. I hope perhaps you get around to taking on the description of the bedroom you mention, especially as it might get at the loss that quickly followed. Imagine, stencils as markers to the death of a parent! The thing about neighbors is quite serious – my sister would say it’s the ‘damn Pluto transit’. I hope they settle down.

  6. deanna7trees

    loved reading this post and the comments. it’s no wonder you are building houses in stitch. my bedroom growing up was the size of a closet. there were 2 twin beds squeezed in with about 18″ between them to walk through. the only other thing in the room was a chest (like a trunk) that held blankets and sheets. there was not any room for anything else. there was no extensive house (apt) decorating other than curtains and drapes that my dad made as well as the clothes we wore. there was not much money to spend on extra things. even some of the furniture was hand built.
    love the image with your quilt in the background.

    {Dee} – Just these few sentences arouse so much interest… Did you share your bedroom with a sibling? Why was your father sewing and not your mother? Where did you keep your clothes?

  7. Peggy

    This is SUCH a good idea, Dee. You have a really nice memory of your midnight blue room with white furniture. I seemed to always have had pastel-colored walls until the room with white walls and red carpeting. About the time I started my moontime, interestingly enough, with lots of flooding, horrible cramping dosed with codeine, doctor visits, etc. Maybe it was the red carpet and red bedspread that I still have! that spurned it on. I love this — I want to journal about it now. Thank you!

  8. Dee Mallon

    I’d be interested to hear about those associations and the room. Imagining that red carpet and white walls, I can almost feel that gut-ache from long ago periods.

  9. Pat Casey Duane

    I remember the Pittsfield house. To me it was a mansion. I visited there one summer and I am not sure if William was born or not. Your mother was a genius at putting things together that looked like they belonged in a magazine.

  10. Dee Mallon

    Hi Pat! We lived, as a family, in Pittsfield twice. I was born there. Then we moved to GA, where my brother was born, then to Schenectady (three places), the back to Pittsfield again. I was 10. Billy 8. My sister 12. The Glory Drive house was a ranch – not that big, really, but spacious enough for the five of us. I don’t remember the first place. It might have been in Lynn, actually.

  11. saskia

    oh I so love your writing, you have a gift (believe I’ve mentioned this before)
    beautiful images, especially the top two, evocative…..

  12. handstories

    love your shadow wall and memories. i always wanted a blue bedroom & didn’t get one until i was 39 & love it now. mom wanted a “pink” girl, & i actually spent a therapy session on the time i went to camp & came home to a pink bedroom (not the blue one i had begged for).

    1. deedeemallon

      Wow… when I posted this, I had no idea it would bring up so many things for people. That is quite a lot of memory/emotion around color choices… Thank you for sharing, Cindy.

  13. Nat

    I enjoy reading about your bedrooms and the many moves you had. I love the sound of your mom. What a genious woman, a woman of my heart! I love that quilt behind the pitchers. Thanks for sharing your life with us. We moved so many times as well. Will talk about it one day – Hugs Nat

  14. debgorr

    Love that blue and white ring… We lived six different places growing up, plus the boat during the summer. No memories of the first two bedrooms, vague memories of all the rest except the boat and the last bedroom. But from the time I was three until now I’ve had the same bed (except during college), a wrought iron bed that has was painted powder blue by my parents, and then school bus yellow and brass during my teenage years by me, and then finally white about twenty four years ago. For my childhood years it still had the original springs and probably the mattress (I don’t even want to think about the dust mites!). My brothers and I use to fold back one of the ends so that it was a seat and then bounce up and down on it like it was a “wagon” with horses.

  15. deedeemallon

    I imagine that bed, Deb, provides a sense of continuity that moving around so much could not. I bought a wrought iron bed when I was 17, painted it white, but ‘lost’ it to one of my moves in my 20’s (which also involved going to law school – both truly regrettable!). I love the memory of bouncing horsey on the mattress!


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