ArtWrite 12/4: Alec Egan
Silver and Gold
Follow me, if you will, up the flagstone path, up the brick steps, pushing through the screen door to my childhood home circa 1971. You might be put off by the glare. No worries…it’s just the gold and silver metallic wallpaper that wraps our brightly lit foyer like a loud, brassy gift. It’s possible that the ceiling was identically covered, but on that point my memory fails me. I’m pretty certain, though, that the hall closet did not escape the paperhanger’s hand.
Up the pale beige-carpeted stairs, two at a time please, quickly peeking into my father’s study to the left - masculine cork-pressed walls, floors awash in a plaid wall-to-wall of blues and greens and reds. Plaid carpeting you say? Welcome to the 70s.
But if we’re talking wallpaper, let’s hasten to the eye-popping display in my bedroom. I, like other lucky girls my age, was given the awesome responsibility of choosing from swaths taped to the bland white walls. The stakes were not small. The decision probably the first and biggest of my life up to that point was stark and irreversible. How is it that I can still remember the pattern that got away? Pale green and pink in a regal sort of way. Clearly not tied into the prevailing zeitgeist of the northern New Jersey of that era. As a product of that particular time and place, I’m sure I chose well. Outsized-petaled flowers splayed out in neon-bright oranges, greens and yellows. The undulating pattern would become mind-bendingly psychedelic in my teens, under the influence of one sensory-enhancing herb or another. But let’s stay where we are. Decisionmade, things moved quickly. Apple green shag carpet serving as a base, the faux bamboo yellow and white bed frame, hutch and nightstand with pale formica shelving fit in perfectly. Solid, heavy, child-serious furniture. Ikea not yet a glint in anyone’s eye.
A dozen years ago, the last piece of that set, which had traveled from New Jersey to California but not back again, finally fell away, even from my own kids’ bedroom, where it had served as a nightstand, its shades of yellow complementing the egg-yolk colored walls. It was only then, with the distance of time, that I fully appreciated the whimsical delight of my childhood furniture, my childhood decor.
But let’s return one last time to the wallpaper, always the wallpaper. Because who could imagine that, in my mother’s zeal, she would have curtains made of the same pattern, a dust ruffle too. Even my garbage can got sheathed in the stuff. As for my sister’s room, which shared a wall with mine and was identical in nearly every way, she chose less brash colors, but the net effect was more or less the same, as was the trajectory of the bedrooms of all those lucky girls of my childhood.