Should my bedroom back home ever be plucked from its foundation and promptly launched into orbit, I’d lose a decade’s worth of carefully preserved personal history, just like that.
In the past 10 years, I think I’ve redecorated my bedroom once. Almost everything that was present in 2009 — posters, frames, books, art projects, toys, etc. — exists today, in its original location. Since 2009, I’ve simply been filling in the gaps, gradually covering any shelf or section of the wall that still remains bare.
These spaces are almost solely dedicated to items I cherish, and so, over time, my bedroom has come to hold a collection of rather precious artifacts.
I should clarify: they’re precious to me. The truth is, every object on display is rather ordinary. In fact, I doubt a single one of them is worth more than $9, give or take.
But don’t let that dissuade you. Please, join me. Admission is free, and the following tour is, well, obligatory.
On my second-to-top shelf, gathering dust, sit myriad Lego sets I assembled more than eight years ago. I’ll bet I’m one of the only 19-year-old boy-adults you know who still devotes an entire shelf in his bedroom to Legos — the pieces of my big rig have been stuck together for so long, I think I’d need a pair of heavy-duty pliers to pry them all apart.
But I wouldn’t want to, anyway, because these creations, made with the help of my dad, are special. As a kid, I’d often fiddle with Legos on my own. But conquering those larger kits — the ones that include manuals filled with detailed diagrams and instructions — always required a partner. Dad was mine, and side by side, piece by piece, we’d spend hours meticulously constructing our plastic masterpieces. I loved that (and the big rig, too).
Four shelves down from my Legos, squeezed between dozens of other hardbacks, are the many children’s books that my dad would read to my sister and me before bed. Lying down, the two of us would rest our heads against his shoulders, peering curiously over his large hands at the book he held propped up on his stomach. It was a wonderful little tradition we all had, and it lasted until middle school — the books slowly growing in length and difficulty as I grew alongside them.
I no longer have all of the earliest books we read together, but I’ve kept most of them on my shelf. Every so often, I catch a glimpse of one of our favorites — “Three Cheers for Catherine the Great!” or “Toot & Puddle,” “The Jungle Book” or even “James and the Giant Peach” — and I can’t help but smile.
Across the room from my shelves, pasted in neat rows on the wall above my bed, is a series of Cal men’s basketball Posters I collected between 2009 and 2015. Before you ask, there are, indeed, 11 of them.
As the son of two Cal alumni, I was indoctrinated to love the school from a young age, starting with family tickets to basketball games at Haas Pavilion. Perhaps that’s why I now find myself here at UC Berkeley. I don’t know. What I do know is that I always loved those spirited outings — and that the Cal script appears on my bedroom wall no fewer than 18 different times. Good thing I was accepted to UC Berkeley, or else I would’ve had to redecorate!
Finally, hanging opposite my Cal posters, in the coveted spot above my headboard, is a painting of a large orange flower that I drew in the third grade. Honestly, it’s not even very good. The colors overlap in all the wrong places, and the initial pencil marks I drew are still clearly visible beneath the thin layer of orange paint. My work is verifiably subpar for someone of my age at the time. But I like the painting nonetheless, and when given the opportunity to part with it, I never could.
And so it went with many of the other knickknacks and things I now display around my room: None of them have ever seemed particularly display-worthy, almost all of them are verifiably ancient, and yet, when taken together, they tell a meaningful life narrative — one that is distinctly mine.
After spending the summer back in my childhood bedroom, the walls of my new apartment in Berkeley will seem uncharacteristically, almost blindingly white. When I move in tomorrow morning, no familiar childhood artwork will embrace me, no old basketball posters will be there to welcome me in. There aren’t any shelves, either — not even a stray ledge or mantel waiting to be filled.
And that’s just this apartment. Who knows where, and in what, I might settle next? In the next few years, I’m sure I’ll be moving around — a lot. I’ll live in many different places, hopping from Southside to Northside and then back to Southside again. Maybe, after graduation, I’ll even jump to a different city altogether.
For now, it seems my bedroom, and all it holds, will inevitably be transitory. And that’s new to me. But perhaps it’s for the best: My Legos wouldn’t travel well anyway.
Jericho Rajninger writes the Thursday column on the liminal space between childhood and adulthood during a summer home from college. Contact him at [email protected]