The Red Room is empty

The Red Room is empty

Sunday Blog 118 – 14th January 2023

Of all the rooms that posed a challenge in the recent clear-out of my family home, it was the Red Room. So named for the smart red tulip wall paper installed on its walls in the seventies once I’d moved out. This wallpaper covered up the funky riot of purple wall covering applied in the sixties.

I had shared the Red Room with a sibling – we were the two youngest. Our messiness was legendary. We needed to jump from the doorway to our beds, as the floor was foot-deep in crap and not navigable on foot.

As the eldest siblings left home, I would move into their rooms. While I don’t have any issues, honest, I did note that the moment I vacated our shared bedroom it was chi chi’d up with said tulip wallpaper. The Red Room was snappy in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, variety was the spice of my life and I enjoyed trying out my four other sibling’s room for size. As they boomeranged in and out, I would try first this room, then another. My shortest tenure was my brother’s room, which harboured a robust family of flying cockroaches. They are clever, evil beings, half bat, half insect which fly right at you, especially when you have insect spray in your hands. By the time I left, my cockroach anxiety had ballooned so much that I lay gingerly down then leapt as though burnt. The tag of my pillow felt just like one of their creepy barbed legs.

But I digress. The Red Room had become the Junk Room since 1980 and despite many attempts to de-clutter it, the Red Room had remained swamped by random memorabilia. Every available wall space was jammed with shelves.

And now, the clutter had to be removed. It needed to be winnowed, as there were precious treasures hidden among the dross. Our cot cards that were pinned over us in the nursery as our father came to admire us after the mess of birthing was done. The congratulations cards our parents received on our births. Admittedly, as the sixth child and fifth girl, the messages of congratulations on the occasion of my birth were more muted. One person was honest enough to ask if my mother was coping.

Weeks ago, we hit upon the genius idea of boxing up the Red Room shelf by shelf and sending it all to my eldest sister’s house for sifting and sorting. But one cupboard missed the boxing process and my long-suffering eldest sister baulked at any more boxes. The state of her marriage may have hung in the balance had I presented a further half dozen cartons of junk. 

The cupboard remained full over the Christmas break. I looked at it over Christmas and slammed its door shut in despair. Well, the doors didn’t shut properly, but you get the idea.

And finally, post-Christmas as the house settlement stage loomed, we had even emptied this cupboard. Someone even salvaged the empty shell from the verge after we had dragged it there, with a few surreptitious kicks and curses on the way.

Suddenly the Red Room emerged as the relatively spacious double bedroom that it had always been. The Red Room wallpaper still hangs, albeit in shreds here and there.

I shut the door on the room, confident the room was now clear.

“Here,” one sister says. “It came from the Red Room floor.”

A little plastic tag. My name, date and time of birth. The tag that went around my ankle, and would have been cut off when I was 14 days old, when Mum was allowed home from hospital after two full weeks of bedrest.

Now the Red Room is completely empty.

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