The Perfect Child’s Room. Recycled Sundays.

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In the pre-designer days, my sister and I shared a “make-do” bedroom that was also partitioned for my brother. It didn’t measure up to the brass beds and white bed spreads in the catalog.

When I got my own room, I was allowed to redecorate. An adolescent with a paintbrush is a dangerous thing, but I merely stained my nails blue and added pattern to the linoleum. The cracks still showed through the paint, since I hadn’t known about patching. Because I measured the window without considering gathers, the curtains barely met in the middle. I overcompensated for my disappointment by smothering the room in rock and roll posters. The tacks Swiss-cheesed  the walls.

After marriage, my husband and I rented a home. When we had eaten enough macaroni and cheese to save the down payment for a house, I began a quilt for my seven-year-old daughter. Each of the 20 one foot squares  had a detailed fabric painting. There was a tartanned Scottish lassie, a wooden  clogged Norwegian milkmaid, and a demure Chinese girl holding a Pekingese dog. So much for my battle against stereotyping!

We worked on our new home before moving in. I rolled the rose-mauve semigloss over the scuffed (and patched) yellow paint in what was to be my daughter’s bedroom. This time I wore gloves and used a floor tarp.

I bought a three-dimensional wall-hanging of Victorian misses, matching curtains and yards of material to edge the quilt. The white furniture had brass handles graced by roses. I was giddy with pride. My little girl’s room was not only pretty and feminine but a unique demonstration of her mother’s devotion.

I bought my four-year-old son Care Bear curtains and a bedspread. In the name of equality, I made a wall hanging of Bedtime Bear inscribed with embroidery that read, “Sweet Dreams”.

My son was ecstatic. My daughter stood in the doorway of her brother’s room and stated, “I sure hope mine is Care Bears too.”

My heart seized. Hastily, I drew her aside.

“Yours is very special. I finished the quilt I’ve been working on for months. (Get that? Months!) Everything is in shades of your favorite color.”

She nodded doubtfully. I threw open her bedroom door. “Ta da!”

“I like the Care Bears better,” she wailed and burst into tears.

Stab me through the chest with a garden fork! After a talk with her father (I could hear his pleading tone through the door), she thanked me. Over time, she stained the quilts with markers, juice and glue. A visiting hamster chewed it. Each mark was a drop of acid in my soul. Finally I asked the dreaded question. “If you could have any bedroom you want it, what would it look like?”

“Well, I do like my bedroom, (she had grown in diplomacy), but if I couldn’t have this one, I would love a bedroom with My Little Pony curtains, a big unicorn wall hanging, and a pink lace bedspread.”

Fourteen minutes of shopping could have given her a dream come true. Why hadn’t I asked her in the first place? I realized I had created a bedroom I would’ve loved as a child. Major embarrassment. Parenting books and classes hadn’t helped. The tartanned lassie smirked. I’m one of those mothers.

My daughter learned to appreciate her room as she grew, and has forgotten her initial reaction, but I haven’t. Whenever I become ambitious for her, I stop and remember. Am my stitching together future she wants, or something I thought I missed? The quilt is my reminder.

November 18, 1990.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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