When I was growing up, my grandmother lived in a four-story farm house.
It was in the suburbs of Philadelphia—Elkins Park, to be exact. She lived a few blocks away from Bill Cosby, had a full cellar with a cement floor, and a large, spacious walk-up attic.
The house had so much to it. Hardwood floors, black and white linoleum tile. A breakfast room with a heavy, old, white refrigerator with a large metal handle. The freezer was almost always iced up, so I was discouraged from opening it.
I frequently snuck in there, and opened it anyway. I’d just stand in front of it, letting the cool air tickle my face. It would be mere seconds before my grandmother caught me, grabbing my arm, and pulling me into the bathroom to brush my teeth.
I remember drinking strong cups of unsweetened, lukewarm tea at the quaint little kitchen table. That table is at my parent’s cabin now. My grandmother taped up the cards my sister and I drew for her beside it, where they remained until she passed.
There were broken crayons in a blue aluminum cookie tin. She kept it in a tall shelf, probably to keep me from making a mess with them. I found a similar cookie tin at a thrift store a year ago, and I keep treasures in there now.
There were four bedrooms in the house, and three had the same flowered wallpaper, but in different colors. There was the blue flowered bedroom, where my Aunt slept. I used to sneak in there to try on her Desert Flower perfume, while watching my grandmother hang damp t-shirts and shorts out on the sagging clothing line in the yard.
On one occasion, my Aunt and I threw an old, rotting potato out into the yard. It hit one of the shirts and exploded, as did we into hysterical laughter.
The pink flowered bedroom was my grandmothers, where she had old-fashioned, wind-up alarm clocks on her bedside table. An old Kewpie doll sat atop the dresser. The back bedroom was the only one without flowers, and was mostly for storage, but also housed a secret-ish staircase up to the attic.
The attic was my retreat, though I again, was not encouraged to go up there. I was quiet as a mouse as a child, but I got into everything. My grandmother, once she realized I had vanished from the living room, or the front porch, would immediately go to the attic to find me.
“Melissa Bee Bee,” I can still hear her. Her voice echoing up the stairs, “Are you up there?”
Most times, I didn’t answer. She’d call a few times, and sometimes, come up, looking for me as I slouched behind a box, clutching my most recently discovered attic treasure.
And while Olga (my grandmother) lived out the real life mystery, Olga Roshko & The Case of the Missing Melissa Bee Bee, I read through my Mom’s childhood collection of Nancy Drew.
Summer after summer, I dug through boxes of vintage shoes and t-shirts. I tried to teach myself how to play the guitar. Many times, I was recovered, with my grandmother mumbling about why I always went up there, as she led me back down the stairs.
But despite my attic adventures, my favorite room was by far the smallest bedroom with the most vibrant of the flowered wallpapers. It was bright yellow, which seemed to glow in the soft, late afternoon light.
It was the start of my fascination with tiny spaces. It held a desk, a large wardrobe, and some other items that I can’t really recall now. There wasn’t much to it, and something about that made me feel safe and calm.
In fact, within every fictional piece I’ve written, each and every character I’ve invented has spent some time in my now long-lost, yellow wallpapered room.
So at my new house (STILL CLOSING, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, NOT GETTING EXCITED), I was delighted to find a small, equally quaint bedroom that reminds me of my grandmother’s. I decided, somewhere between getting my offer accepted and going to visit a second time, that this room would be a surrogate, a transformed space, to replace the one I no longer have.
And I would fill it with all of my since-discovered treasures.
This example isn’t yellow, but I like the intimate, cozy feeling. The vintage touches are nice, and not too excessive.
Likes: The reading lamp, the bookcases, the wicker chair and ship in a bottle. It’s imaginative, yet very rustic.
The wood panels are gorgeous, and probably wouldn’t be too difficult to do, if I decided to go that route.
Dislikes: Painting of pheasants.
I love dressers, but I fear the things that will pile and accumulate in them. I have a dresser from my friend, Nout, that I would like to refurnish with quirky knobs or accessories.
I’d also (admittedly) like to invest in a record player like this one. To play Fleetwood Mac and, of course, to annoy Claire Becker.
Since this room will probably house my art supplies, I imagine the drawers would just be good for spare sketchbooks, my odds and ends of paper, as well as the bits of smooth glass I hold on to in hopes of finding them a more productive purpose.
Imagining jars filled with paintbrushes, hot glue sticks, and oodles and oodles of the fine tipped Micron pens people always try to steal from me.
As a homage to my Mom-Mom (yup, that’s what I called her), I’d like to put up yellow wallpaper, instead of just paint.
There’s something so artistic looking about it.
However, good wallpaper that isn’t crazy expensive is kind of hard to come by. A lot of the wallpaper I’ve scouted is either dizzying, or obnoxious. I don’t want to be blinded whenever I come into the room.
I’ve literally scoured hundreds of wallpaper samples, but haven’t found anything. I may just end up painting anyway, then hand painting flowers, lemons, or bees (whatever I decide) to look like wallpaper.
I kind of like this one.
If you have any potential wallpaper sites or resources, please send them to me. Also actively scouting people to help me put up wallpaper… (don’t all volunteer at once, now.)