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Friday, August 20, 2010

Retro Rumpus Room has Deep Roots

Here is my finished rumpus room--that is the name we called the basement room at my grandparent's house. Mistaya and I decided we love the name "rumpus room" and will call this room that forever more.

My maternal grandparent's rumpus room was my favorite room ever. It was filled with endless wonder : giant antique bank desks with tall, wooden swivel stools, their drawers filled with art supplies--drawing pastels and paper.
-There were shiny dark wood cabinets with oil paints and canvases (my grandmother was a hobby painter) and board games.
-The sofas were long and sturdy from the 1950's. And usually I could find a nice fat collection of MAD magazines, Archie comics, and BC comics--my grandfather was a kid at heart.
- Book shelves filled with old medical books with gory pictures of all sorts of rashes and diseases (my grandfather was a medical doctor). And a fantastic collection of art books. And this part is really creepy--the medical report about a little girl (a friend of mine) who had drowned at the town pool. My favorite childhood babysitter (a teenage boy) had been the lifeguard on duty that day and had tried to save her. I remember the horrible details of the report still--he was able to revive her but she aspirated shortly afterword and died at the scene. Sorry for the details. I just cannot believe this stuff is all still in my mind like it was yesterday and it is all really horrible stuff. I don't think anyone knew that I'd found all those reports in the cabinet and read them. And it gets worse. The summer before she drowned, my cousin and I were being bullies. Real little neighborhood shits--even though we were only vacation residents of the town. And one day we stopped that little girl on her bike and tried to demand that she eat leaves we'd picked off of some tree . I can't remember how it ended. But she went home upset, I am sure. I've never stopped feeling ashamed of my childhood self for that act of bullying. Because she was a friend of mine--on another occasion I'd been invited to her house.

 I loved an old photograph on their rumpus room wall. It was an blAck and white photograph from near the turn of the 19th Century. It depicted a young, bare-chested, aboriginal man in a buckskin loin skirt. I think he even had a feather in his long black hair. He was wading into a stream beside a tall rock wall--I always assumed it was a picture of the Highwood River--it flowed down from the rockies through the town of High River, where my grandparents lived. I'd picnicked at a spot on that river with my family when I was little. I remember tall rock walls, cliffs and a cold, swift mountain river cascading down through the Alberta foothills. I especially remember one day, on a family picnic, my tall, freckled father ran like the wind down the steep slopes towards the river and knocked himself out on a tree as he was being chased by hundreds of hornets. I was a toddler at the time but the memory of my dad's terror is still in my mind.

My grandparent's youngest daughter, my Aunt Sara, still lived at home for a few of my childhood years and I remember how their basement housed some of her treasures--china horse figurines and the troll dolls that she collected. How I loved to look at all of her collections and sneak in a touch here and there. Of course, I knew I risked death in doing it. She was a territorial teenager after all.

I spent every summer of my childhood down in that rumpus room. Hours were spent cross-legged on the floor building houses out of lego. And a few years after that, I watched many a Beta tape on the teli as a teen ager--sprawled out on the floor, sipping "Tahiti Treat" pop and munching on chips with home made "Hickory Farms" spice flavoured dips. Hey, I even kissed my very first boyfriend on the sofa in that room.

So all of you armchair shrinks out there take note. I, unbeknownst to myself until today, have been trying to recreate my grandparents rumpus room--right here in my own home. This 1950's furniture craze of mine has roots!
 It all adds up:
-the china horse figurine on my window sill.
- the giant antique teak desk, the long 1950's sofa.
- the shiny, dark wood cabinets.
- books shelves filled with my grandfather's old medical text books, my art books.
- my own paints and easel.
-a teli and movie collection.
Did I mention my collection of retro board games? And the trolls? I don't have any but I have encouraged my daughter's collection of the ugly creatures.
All along I have been creating this cozy childhood place of refuge for myself...thinking it was just an uncontrollable passion for thrifting.

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Blogger Sandra said...

The "rumpus room " looks great. However I had no idea you were such wicked little girls!

August 21, 2010 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger theresa_hart said...

You have an amazing memory. It all comes back with your description but I certainly couldn't have gotten there myself! What happened to that photo of the native?

August 21, 2010 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Melissa Mix Hart said...

Sash--Oh the wicked stories I could tell! But that would cloud your perfect memory of me as your sweet angel-girl ;)
T-good question!

August 21, 2010 at 3:01 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Someone in the family has it but I can't remember who.

August 21, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

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