My parents’ bedroom was precisely that—a room for their bed, as little else could fit in there—just two dressers and a record player/tape deck/radio. Their bed always seemed huge to me. It dominated the space with its flattened pillows and well-worn sheets—sheets that were hung out to be sun-dried on the clothesline in our back yard—sheets, their details fading, that were sometimes folded up and then spread out in Prospect Park for a picnic.
The room smelled mostly like my mother. Dad dressed (and applied his cologne) downstairs in his own dressing space, so this room mostly contained her scents—vibrant perfumes that (to my young nose) had the aroma of royalty. It smelled of her hair products too—soft scents of moisturizers that kept her hair healthy and growing to lengths my own would never reach (much to my chagrin).
My parents’ bed served as couch, chair, desk, and (on special—or surreptitious—occasions) table. The wall on my mother’s side held the only two windows in the room. Those windows, through their iron-wrought bars, let in soft, muted light and a view of the backyard where my father would plant things like cucumbers and tomatoes. He tried watermelons once, but the hungry and persistent neighborhood squirrels wouldn’t let those seeds grow. The cucumbers he’d chill, soak in salted water, slice, and then give to me as a snack—refreshing on a hot summer day. That’s how we ate fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, avocadoes, and mangoes in my house—sliced and separate. My family never made salads.
I remember how comfortable my parents’ bed was. And I liked to take full advantage of its queen-size-ness, positioning myself in the center and making an extended “X” out of my body. I loved the sensation of stretching but never reaching the edge—sprawling out with my limbs going as far as possible, but always being fully contained—never reaching beyond the bed’s periphery.
When I was really young and frequently overtaken by nightmares, that bed was my sanctuary—my safe harbor in a storm of subconscious assaults. Anchored between my parents, in a trough of space just big enough for me, I could sleep safe from whatever monsters, enemies, or tragedies my own bed allowed to invade my dreams. There were no nightmares to be had in my parents’ bed. And even though I suspect they may not have welcomed a child literally coming between them in the intimate hours of the night, they always made room for me to sleep with them.
That was one of the few instances of gender inequality in our home. My sister and I were permitted to sleep in our parent’s bed with impunity. Had a bad dream? Climb on in. Sleep here until the morning. My brother, however, did not enjoy the same nighttime bed use privileges. He was allowed in, but the minute he fell asleep, Dad would pick him up and carry him out and back to his own bed. Sleeping through the night on our parents’ bed was a perk only we girls enjoyed.
I spent a lot of time in my parents’ room. I tried on my mother’s shoes—until the sad, sad day when my feet became bigger than hers. I made mix tapes from the radio on their stereo system. I checked myself in their full-length mirror before I left for anywhere important. I had “girl talk” with my mom as she got ready to go out. I lounged on their bed on my days off—but not on weekend days. On Saturdays and Sundays that bed belonged to my father. Especially when he was working 1.5 jobs and going to law school, weekends were his only chance to catch up on sleep. If you could call it sleep. It was really more akin to hibernating. He would spend the gross majority of the day wrapped up in a cocoon of sheets and blankets—covered from his toes to his head—sleeping. If he was sick or particularly tired, he might spend the entire day in that bed. Otherwise, once he’d accumulated enough sleep hours to combat his fatigue, he’d become hyper productive. An epic venture—he’d clean the dining room (which also served as his home office). He’d do work in the backyard—planting, watering, and chopping down weeds with a machete. He’d sweep the two staircases and mop all of the floors. And, if mom wanted a break from cooking, he’d make hot dogs.
I loved my parents’ room. It was the nexus of our home. Three doors led to it, and more than the living room, it is where we as a family hung out. Whether it was helping Mom fold the laundry, watching Dad pack for our vacations, playing with my siblings, or just laying on the bed listening to Cat Stevens or Raffi records, I spent a lot of time in there. It holds many memories. More than any other space in our house, that room was the epitome of home—full of joy, full of life, and full of love.