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The Story of My Room

Here I'd like to tell you the story of my beloved old room at my parents' house. I only lived there for eight years, from age 10 when we moved to Boulder to age 18 when I went off to college, plus a few summers, but at the time it seemed like forever. I still remember every little thing about it.

  • The room itself, big and square with off-white walls and straw-colored carpet. I often sat on the floor in the middle of the room, so I was more familiar with the carpet than you might think.
  • The big old bed, with its squarish wooden frame; the golden-yellow bedspread with the little ridges. Later, the bedspread was replaced with a red one (also with little ridges), and that's how I remember the room now, but I always liked the yellow one better.
  • The three windows next to each other. I used to like to stand there and lean on the windowsill and stare out and think about things. And, when we kids managed to get a frisbee or something stuck on the roof, I could take down the screen, climb out the window onto the wooden shingles, and go get it.
  • The wooden dresser with its metal handles and squeaky bottom drawers.
  • The old electromechanical clock … the way the numbers were lit up, and the hum and click as they changed.
  • The low bookshelves of dark-stained wood, that I eventually filled with books. On top, and on top of the dresser too, were special things I'd collected … frog icons, nice little round rocks, a chess piece that Allison Thoburn gave me in fourth grade, et cetera.
  • The little desk and chair that had been my mother's; the gold lamp with the flexible metal neck; the round magnetic thermometer that I kept stuck to the base. I'd damaged it somehow, melted the plastic, and it made me sad every time I looked at it.
  • The big wooden closet doors that folded open when you pulled on the small square knobs. I still remember the feel of them, the exact amount of force I liked to use.
  • The curtains, of thick white fabric with little pictures of trains. I also had a bedside lamp that had been a train lantern; a small rectangular rug, mostly blue and green, that showed an oncoming train; and a little oval trash can of green metal with the same train pattern as the curtains.
  • The rumble and whine of the wind, when it was windy. Boulder is a fairly windy city, and we lived in a particularly windy area; shortly after we moved there, a house a few blocks away got most of its roof blown off.

As a description of my room, I'm really pleased with the above; it really captures the essence of it. Of course no description can make you understand my room the way I do, but hopefully it gives you some idea what it was like. To do better, I'd have to draw pictures, or go into tremendous detail.

There's one very large detail I've left out, though, which is that the room gradually became full of stuff.


Sorry … I had to pause there so you could feel some of the tremendous meaning hidden in that little phrase “full of stuff”. Saying that my room was full of stuff is like coming back from a trip to the Grand Canyon and saying that it was big … it's not just an understatement, it also totally fails to convey the true nature of the thing described. Let me tell you a few things that will make it clear.

First, I mostly preferred small objects to large ones, so instead of guitars and basketballs (e.g.), I tended to have lots of tiny little things. (Whether my being nearsighted was a cause or an effect of that, I don't know.) I liked to make things, too, usually out of paper or cardboard since those were easy to work with. I once made a twelve-sided hexaflexagon that was half an inch across.

But then, even more than I liked small objects, I liked paper, in all its forms: notebooks, notepads, loose sheets with or without lines, index cards, graph paper, and so on. We always had lots of paper around the house … partly because my grandfather worked for a paper company, but mostly because my father was in business, and that's how you did business back then, on paper. Of course I also liked the different ways of writing: pencils, crayons, and pens of various colors, types, and sizes.

I liked pen and paper in themselves, but at first I must have liked them only as means to an end; what I really liked was to write and draw. I drew pictures and cartoons and space battles, wrote stories, played games (e.g., Dots and Boxes), made puzzles and mazes, and invented all kinds of languages and secret codes. Given my preference for small things, I guess it's only natural that my handwriting gradually got smaller and smaller, so that I could put more and more information on each page.

Then, as mentioned in Personality Types, there's the fact that I tended to hoard things … that I used to be a huge pack rat, in other words. I'd get very attached to, and sentimental about, even the stupidest little things, and then want to keep them forever. I already had plenty of stuff when we moved to Boulder, and I accumulated more and more every year. Even in college, I'd come home at the end of the year and bring everything with me … every little sentimental object, every single paper from every single class.

To complete the picture, here are two short thoughts. First, I didn't have very good organizational skills, so things tended to accumulate in random piles. Second, my parents didn't need the room for anything else, so I was under no real pressure to clean it out.

Thus, when I moved back to Boulder at the age of 33, there was my room, just as I'd left it, containing essentially everything I'd come in contact with between third grade and senior year of college. There were boxes and piles and sacks of things everywhere … boxes on the floor, brown paper sacks of file folders in the closet, boxes on top of other boxes, big long flat boxes under the bed. The closet was full; much of the floor was covered. Imagine the volume of it, the boxes and piles and sacks, the desk drawers, the cardboard file cabinet I forgot to mention, all the closet shelves; and then imagine that entire volume filled with papers and various small objects, each one bound to some tiny fragment of memory. What a treasure! What a tremendous amount of information!

Now you know what I meant when I said my room was full of stuff. But, just to make it a bit more concrete, here's a tiny sample of things that were in my room.

  • A report on polymers I wrote in high school … or, rather, didn't write, because instead of writing it out by hand, I'd printed it, on a printer. That was a novelty, then. We'd had an Apple II for years, but I'd never been interested in using it for word processing. When I was in high school, though, my dad got us a Macintosh, one of the original beige ones with the handhold on top, and at the same time I began to need to write longer papers. The report also had some beautiful line drawings that I'd done with a black Razor Point pen.
  • The story Snow (which was handwritten, in pen).
  • Worksheets and homework from elementary school, when everyone was so sure that the United States was going to switch to metric, and that C.B. radio was going to transform society.
  • Papers from when I was applying to college; the letters of acceptance and of rejection.
  • Candy wrappers. My favorites were the ones from Winter Park, where I used to go skiing. I'd buy a little roll of these things like Life Savers, and carry it around in my pocket all day. The room with the vending machines also had video games, of which my favorite was Super Cobra (since they didn't have Tempest there).
  • Some pictures I drew at Sunday School.
  • Pencil stubs. Remember pencils? I always used them until I couldn't sharpen them any more, until there was just a tiny little stub … and then I saved all the stubs in my desk drawer. They were yellow No. 2 ones, mostly. I had a fancy red metal pencil sharpener that would hold on to the pencil for you while you cranked on a handle to sharpen it. That was a present from my grandfather; he always loved clever mechanical things.
  • Lined paper from when I was learning to write in cursive; spelling tests; math homework from when I was learning to multiply and divide.
  • Pages and pages of graph paper with maps and footnotes that described an elaborate Dungeons & Dragons world. One of my friends might have played through a tiny fraction of it once.
  • The little fuzzy red dog I won at a school fair in Alabama. I can vaguely remember the low brick school building, and how we had to walk around the left side of it to get to the back, where the fair was. That's one of the earliest memories I have.

After I moved back to Boulder, I slowly but surely dealt with everything in the room in one way or another, as described in How I Cleaned My Room. Then finally I was done, and my mom repainted it and rearranged all the furniture and made it into a guest room; and that's the end of the story of my room.


  See Also

  De-Sentimentalization (1)
  De-Sentimentalization (2)
  How I Cleaned My Room

@ April (2007)