A Canopy Bed

Writing Prompt: What was the one thing that a friend had that you wished you had when you were little? 

I can’t remember ever not wanting to have a canopy bed. From the moment I laid eyes on the very first one I ever saw, I wanted one.

Desperately.

I wasn’t a foofy girl growing up but I sure wanted a foofy canopy bed.

It reeked of femininity (something I lacked as a young girl) and somehow I felt that owning one would make me pretty, and I so wanted to be pretty. The girls I knew who had canopy beds were more poised and graceful and I was convinced it was because sleeping in a bed fit for a queen turned you into a princess overnight. If I had a canopy bed, I was certain the feminine qualities I lacked would miraculously materialize – as if by osmosis – and I would be transformed into a beautifully poised and graceful princess.

Or at least I would no longer be the lanky, awkward girl that I actually was.

My mother probably thought it was some fanciful phase I would grow out of but I didn’t. I never stopped wanting a canopy bed. Not ever. The desire to own one followed me through my childhood. It was a dream never realized, a longing never fulfilled.

That beautiful canopy bed I wanted looked something like this:

Years later, when I was married, my husband built me a canopy bed out of some plans he found in a Home magazine. His creation didn’t look anything like the picture but I appreciated the effort. The canopy was not billowing pink ruffled material, but a green dust ruffle stapled on top that was always crooked. The center of the dust ruffle always drooped down so he added beams across that he neglected to stain to match the rest of the bed. It lacked continuity and I was not decorating savvy enough to fix the blemishes. He most likely used treated wood (even though he assured me he didn’t) and that probably shaved years off our life.

The plans for the bed my husband built looked something like this:

QCanopyCoverwww.thedesignconfidential.com

I might not have felt like a princess in the bed my husband built but that bed was full of memories. It’s the bed in which all three of my children were created. It’s the bed my children slept in when they were first born when I was too tired to get up in the middle of the night and pluck them from their cribs. It’s the bed where I straddled my toddler when he had pink eye and I had to put drops in his eyes. It’s the bed the kids came flying into on Christmas morning to demand it was time to wake up and see what Santa brought even though the sun hadn’t even woken up yet.  It’s the bed where I sobbed after I had my first miscarriage…and then my second. It’s the bed my son sat on when he had something important to say after a hard day at school. It’s the bed my children would crawl into in the middle of the night when they had a bad dream or they were sick. It’s the bed my children would jump on for hours singing about little monkeys. It’s the bed I slept in while my husband slept downstairs on the couch when things started to crumble between us.

Like our marriage, the canopy bed my husband built wasn’t strong enough to last. It was unable to endure all that we put it through. It wasn’t meant to be repeatedly taken apart and put back together again so by the time we moved into our fifth house, it was finally time to accept the days of lying under a crooked dust ruffle were over.

But at least I can say I once had a canopy bed.

A Story in a Single Image

While frantically searching through my office for my missing insurance card, I came across this photograph that used to reside in my father’s office. For as long as I can remember, the frame has always been cracked, though I can’t say how that came about. My younger sister’s picture sat next to mine on the shelf, all of her adorableness shining through in her unbroken frame.

I’m not sure when I first noticed the crack or when it first started to bother me but it did.

For years.

After my dad retired, I came across the cracked frame in a box at his house and specifically asked if I could have it. I wanted proof I wasn’t my father’s favorite daughter.

I have a habit of harboring shit like that.

I don’t know what irked me more: the fact that my frame was ruined or that my dad didn’t bother to fix it. I entertained endless possibilities debating the two sides, convinced the entire time that had my sister’s frame been cracked, it would have been repaired immediately.

The frame could have fallen off the shelf. More probably, it simply tipped over and cracked and like so many other things in life, went unnoticed.

To everyone except to me.

Fast forward years later, when I too become a single parent like my father. In the hallway of our house, hung three frames displaying my children’s artwork.

Except, the thing is, one of the frames was empty.

For quite some time, one of the frames didn’t have a picture in it.

And I can’t remember why.

It could have been because I couldn’t find the picture I wanted. It could have been because the picture I wanted to use was too big for the frame. Whatever the reason, the frame hung empty on the wall.

I’d put it up with the best intentions, never planning for it to hang empty as long as it did. For the longest time, I would walk past the empty frame and remind myself it needed to be addressed.

But for some reason, it never did get addressed.

I could type out a million excuses, all of them probably valid, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that all these years I have been wagging my judgmental finger at my father for the exact same thing I did to my own child.

It seems my cracked frame compliments my glass house perfectly.

Did the son whose picture was missing wonder why his artwork wasn’t represented like I wondered why my cracked frame hadn’t been repaired?

I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that when a friend visiting me asked why I had an empty frame on the wall, I rectified the situation immediately with a drawing off the fridge.

Years later, I confronted my father and asked him point blank why he favored my sister over me. His response was simple and concise.

I didn’t. 

That sentence could have seriously changed my life if I’d heard it earlier. But I didn’t know how to ask it because I was too busy worrying about my cracked frame.

Uncertainty

I didn’t see it coming. I really didn’t. Maybe in hindsight I may have had an inkling it was a possibility but for the most part, I was in complete denial.

Sometimes we rely on truths we believe will always exist in our lives and we take them for granted. But sometimes Life rips the carpet out from underneath us, snatches theses truths away and leaves us gasping for air.

I never expected in a million years that my children would go and live with their father. An entire year in court battling over custody, and never once did I entertain the thought that they might move 3 hours away from me.

I just didn’t believe it was a possibility.

So when it happened, I was completely unprepared. They were here one minute and gone the very next. I hadn’t had time to get used to the idea, to adjust to this major change. I found myself floundering in a sea of remorse not knowing what the hell had happened or how to deal with the feelings of loss I was experiencing.

Nine months later, I’m still adjusting to this new life I have acquired. For more than 20 years, my children have been the center of my life. They have gotten more from me than anyone else on the planet, including myself. I’m so grateful to have had them in my live for as long as I did. And, if I’m honest with myself, I’m grateful that their father has taken over the responsibility of parenting full-time because for a very long time I carried that responsibility all on my own.

My children wanted to try something different. They wanted to see what life was like living with their dad and his new family. My fear of change kept me clinging on to them which only made them want it more. I was afraid to let them go because so much of who I was was defined by having them in my life.

I didn’t know who I would be without them.

I still don’t know, really. I’m just trying to figure it all out. The good news is there’s a world of possibility standing in front of me and it’s pretty exciting. At 40 something, I finally have the opportunity to answer the question I’ve been asking myself my entire life:

What do I want to be when I grow up?

And then the excitement dissolves into fear and the world of possibility suddenly becomes shrouded in a veil of uncertainty.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I’ve spent so many years helping my children accomplish their goals while setting my own on the back burner that now that my time has come I’m….well, uncertain.

Uncertain which direction to go, uncertain which avenues to pursue, uncertain who I want to be.

I’m now faced with opportunities that have never been available to me before. I don’t have to worry about putting my oxygen mask on first so I can take care of others, I get to put my oxygen mask on first because I’m the only one here.

The Universe has opened its doors and set out the Welcome mat for me. I’m scared to death, terrified actually, but I’m not going to let this opportunity of a lifetime pass me by.