Monday, 4 January 2010

A Bedroom Full Of Stars….

When I was about ten years old, I saved up all my pocket money for about three weeks for something that had caught my eye in our local knickknack shop, just round the corner from my house. It was a packet of glow in the dark star stickers that were sitting on some dusty shelf, right behind some cheap and nasty plastic toys that were obviously made in some sweat shop in China.

These stars pleased my ten year old eye immensely, and I had these had grand visions of where I would put them once I had saved up enough money to buy these wonderful things. So I pestered my dad for household chores that my ten year old self could actually do (washing up, polishing, that kind of stuff), and eventually saved up enough money to go with my mum to the little store and buy my stickers.

I was so excited that day, my head filled with that childish glee that only something stupid and tacky could provide. I walked in with my £2.50 burning a fiery hole in my pocket and walked straight up to the shelf where they were. Now, I don’t know why she did this, but my mum could see how excited I was about getting these, frankly, pretty crappy stickers, and just as I picked a packet for myself, she then grabbed another three and bought them for me as well.

How cool was that? I had a whole galaxy sitting in a brown paper bag.

So I rushed home and immediately ran up the stairs to my bedroom, spilling the contents of my freshly bought wares over my bed. Now this was going to take some planning. My aim was to cover the entire space of my bedroom ceiling with these amazing things and turn my room into the deepest, darkest, space imaginable.

So I carefully unwrapped the stickers and placed them into little piles that corresponded with what they were. I had moons, shooting stars, planets, and hundreds of tiny little stars that would fill out the surrounding areas.

I grabbed a chair and began to carefully stick them to my ceiling. I wasn’t putting them up haphazardly; there was real care and attention that went into this little endeavour. I made clusters of planets, around which orbited a moon each, and then I created bursts of stars around them as well. Constellations formed, amazing nebulas were birthed right before my eyes, and a whole universe was taking shape with each sticker that I placed with my excited hand.

After about three exhausting hours, I was finally done. My entire ceiling was covered with the stickers. And as the light began to fade, I switched on my bedroom light to charge them up so they would glow brightly during the night.

When it was eventually time for me to go to bed, my dad did his normal ritual of tucking me in during the night. He would gather me up on his back, piggyback style, and then run up the stairs to my room, always making a point to pretend to be falling backwards on the top step, something that my younger self used to delight in, that sensation of nothing behind me, and me holding on to my strong father for dear life so I wouldn’t fall, but he never let me. He carried me as always. I always used to love this moment, that one small snatch of time where it was just me and him. That’s how I always remember him the best, us laughing, me clinging on to his shoulders, half in terror, the other half joy.

God he was a good man.

My dad was also a bit of a workaholic unfortunately. He would spend long hours away from us working, so any time that I could spend with him was always a bonus to me, my nightly tuck in being one of them.

He had watched me spend the day placing my stickers on the ceiling (and I swear I heard him muttering darkly something about “Gonna take the paint off”, but I tried to ignore that) and he knew that I had been waiting for this moment all day.

Once he got me into my bed, he gave me a little kiss on the forehead like he always used to do, his stubble tickling me, which always made me squirm, and the scent of his aftershave filled my world in a way that always makes me think of him to this day if I smell it elsewhere, and then walked over to my light switch and paused.

“You ready?” he asked me.

I nodded.

He turned off the light.

It was beautiful.

The walls of my bedroom seemed to fall away as my room exploded in a sudden burst of light. In front of my eyes, a never ending swirl of universe glittered above me, shimmering and gleaming like real stars.

“Bloody hell!” my dad said, upon seeing the wonder I had created. “Are you sure you’re going to be able to sleep with this?”

“It’s brilliant!” I replied.

And I meant it.

As he left my room, I lay on my back and just stared straight ahead. My bedroom window was open slightly and a cool breeze blew in, which further enhanced the idea that I wasn’t in some suburban bedroom, but was in fact drifting through the cold and empty upper reaches of the stratosphere. I almost felt that I could reach out my arm and touch the universe I had created as it was that close.

That night I slept deeply amongst the stars.

For the first few weeks, my favourite time of day would be that brief pause, just before I turned my lights out, and I knew that my room was going to be instantly transformed and take me to another place. I used to daydream about that moment all day, as to my child's mind, it was the most perfect thing ever. And it was.

Every kid at one point wants to be an astronaut; I got to do it every night as I lay on my bed.

As the weeks rolled on, as time does, my love for my stars began to gradually change though. Whereas before it was something fun and exciting to me, now, as each night drew in, I began to like my universe less and less. Instead of making me feel as if I was floating in space, it began to make me feel incredibly small and insignificant, like I was nothing more than a speck of dust, drifting through an infinite darkness and lost forever.

As I closed my eyes, I could feel these stars pressing against my eyelids, the glow from them invading my head and preventing me from sleeping. I would toss and turn in my bed, burying my head under blankets and trying to find an angle where I could find some peace, where I would be allowed to finally drift off. But no matter what I did, the sensation of all these stars pressing against my tiny body always stopped me from doing so. The moment when I turned my lights out at night grew later and later, until finally one day, I had enough. I got a ruler from my school bag and began to scrape the stickers one by one from my ceiling, ruining the paintwork, just as my dad had so wisely guessed I would do.

Being ten years old, I couldn’t really articulate in my mind why I suddenly began to feel highly uncomfortable in my room at night, why the sensation of being something so small, tumbling though something so huge, gave me such a feeling of vertigo that it almost made my head spin.

It was about 8 years later, as I was leaving Romford hospital one cold December morning, the morning that I had just seen my mother pass away, that I thought about my ceiling full of stars for the first time in years and how miniscule they made me feel, and I think I began to finally understand why.

Having lost my father three years before, a whole maelstrom of emotions were raging through my head as I blindly walked through the hospital, with its aroma of disinfectant and the sounds of the patients in the wards, but the one thought that played out over and over in my mind was that the moment that I left this building, everything would become real. Right now, hearing my footsteps echo along the corridor, it all seemed dream like, flimsy and unsubstantial, but the moment the automatic doors closed behind me, then I would be facing up to a whole new world with all my safety nets removed.

I had my best friend with me at the time; he had spent the whole night sitting up in the hospital, making sure I was OK. He may have been holding my arm for support, I can’t really remember. The only thing I can really remember is thinking, leave this place and everything changes. That was the only thing that filled my mind. Not the fact that I was now alone. Not the fact that I was going to have to grow up faster than anyone should have a right too. But the simple fact that everything that had gone before, all my past, all my history, had now been ripped apart in the space between heartbeats.

As I stepped out into the weak winter sunlight, it felt as if I was just about to take a massive leap into the unknown, and for some strange reason, I was reminded of lying on my bed at night as a child, with the weight of all those stars pressed upon me, and how so small, helpless, and utterly alone they made me feel.

I don’t think I have ever been so scared in all of my life.

I don’t know why I have written about this to be honest. I guess I have found myself in a reflective mood of late. Maybe it’s because of the New Year? Or it could be totally unrelated, just something that has been plaguing me lately. What I do know is that in a few days, I will probably look at this and feel highly uncomfortable about writing something so personal and take it down. I hope I don’t. It was certainly a lot easier writing about it than speaking it. I guess it’s the separation between a blank page and looking somebody in the eye. I can’t really talk about it in real life, but the act of sometimes writing about it somehow makes it that little bit easier.

There is no real way to finish it as well. I can’t wrap it up with something trite and simple, stick a little bow on it and round off with the sound bite that normally ends some stupid teenage movie.

After that summer, nothing was the same again.

Well, after that winter, nothing was the same again for me, obviously. That 18 year old kid probably wouldn’t recognise the adult that he grew into. I’m a lot harder now, so many things in me are now closed off that shouldn’t be. I don’t like that. I never have. I spoke about change and regret in my last post. I suppose these are mine. I’m just often at a loss as how I am to tackle them.

Don’t worry. Normal service should be resumed next post. Probably poo based.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I loved that. It was really poignant and sweet and sad all at once. And because I sort of understand exactly what you mean. When I think of being without the lifelong support of my mum, I feel a sense of tinyness - of panic almost. Because we spend our whole lives learning how to survive on our own but no one ever teaches us how to survive ALONE.

mo.stoneskin said...

Pal that really moved me, not that I know you but it imparted a lot more emotion than you could ever realise. Beautiful telling of the sticker anticipation, buying, applying, reminded me of wonderful moments in my childhood.

Having said that, I'm also looking forward to some toilet humour.

Jean said...

This is such a beautiful yet bittersweet piece that you wrote. It has me reflecting about life when my dad was still around (he passed away almost 3 years ago.) Thank you for sharing this story!


JenJen said...

I'm not sure what you resolved to do this year, but if it was to blow me away with you digging deep and showing off your fucking awesome writing skills, well then, you have won the prize my friend.


Eva Gallant said...

That was a wonderful post. I'm so glad I was able to read it, in case you decide to take it down.

Kim Ayres said...

Wonderfully written - honest, powerful and moving.

Belated, I know, but Happy New Year. Hope it's a good one for you :)

Susan at Stony River said...

What a wonderful post. I even loved the poo reference in the end LOL.

You brought back that moment perfectly, when the second parent's gone and I suddenly found myself standing alone in the world, no matter how many friends and family were left. Over the holidays a lot of people I know round up their kids and went "home" to their parents for Christmas every year, and that's something I can never do again -- it leaves an emptiness.

Anyhow. Don't you DARE take that down! It's gorgeous, from the little kid with his stars to the lost young man in winter.

Nikonda said...

Deep stuff. Doesn't matter whether you speak about these things or write about them - it's a cathartic experience and probably the first step in acknowledging what bothers you. Awareness often heralds change, in time.

Tony Spunk said...

I worry about my mom passing away and me being totally along. Probably she'll live to be 110 and end up burying me. Woman's got the stamina of an ox.

Your stars and your enthusiasm for them sounded amazing. It's funny how you grow up and nothing ever seems to have that same magic ever again.

UberGrumpy said...

Hmmm. I lost my Dad when he was 51 and I was 25 - brought me right back.

Beautifully done.

Long dark hair, blue eyes said...

great post Dan.

CAM said...

Loved this post - mind you the glowing stars were something I could never sleep in the same room with as they made me feel claustrophobic immediately but I know that lost feeling..I discovered the best way to combat it was to listen to some awesome piece of orchestral music on the MP3 player whilst gazing into the night took the empty quiet away.

Stephanie said...

That state of growing up - when ya realize how small you are compared to the universe - is very scary.

Great post.

mapstew said...

Wonderful writing. :¬)

Midnitefyrfly said...

It is great writing, which of course is characteristically the norm for you, but it is very special writing because it is real, it is you, it is really you.

I lost my mom at 8 and every other important parental figure of any sort by the time I was 22. Your hearts guides you to the love and support you need if you open it up.

I am not cold and hard anymore and I am not afraid to open up about it all. Imagine my surprise that after the first time I openly shared my heartache in person or in writing, nothing exploded, no one's eyes started spitting fiery fury at the words they saw, and healing actually began.

I hope this is the beginning of that process for you! thank you for sharing it with me :)

Anonymous said...

I remember you saying that you always bottled this kind of posting.

You have nothing to fear - this was intricate and beautiful and exceptionally welcome.

Millions Of Atoms Man said...

I'll join the don't take it down crowd. Especially touching for me also because I had a similar galaxy on my ceiling at that age. Actually, it may still be on the same ceiling in my parents house right now, I never took it down.

Anyway, well done.

Saskia said...

This is one of the most wonderful posts I have read so far in my time reading blogs. What an amazing piece of writing! So tangible, so powerful.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Saskia xx

PS I too had glow in the dark stars on my ceiling as a child... my uncle had such a shock when he took off his very strong glasses and turned out the light one night when he stayed in my room (and I had to sleep on the sofa!) He had no idea what was glowing above his head!

Sherry said...

That was so nice. I'm glad I read it and glad you shared it.

hope said...

I've always loved your sense of humor, but this made me LIKE you even more. This story makes me feel as if you trust us, know that we will understand and not judge. Truthfully, I feel like giving you a big, heartfelt hug right now.

I appreciate the courage it took to open up and let the world get a peek. I'm much more open on paper than I am in person, mostly because words seemed to just flow from brain out my fingertips to the keyboard without my internal editor screaming, "Are you SURE about that?!"

I had some of those little stars my closet. So I understand how a moment of brilliance was easier to bear than what your created universe came to be.

You're a good man Dan. Thank you for sharing. I hope you'll do so again. We may not be family, but we still care.

talesNtypos said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

That Gal Kiki said...

I've been by to read this more than once. More than twice, even. I got so caught up in your talent, I literally thought I posted a comment.

Well done, my friend across the pond. I loved this.

Sharon McPherson: AUTHOR / ARTIST said...

No don't take it down!!!!

What a great mum and dad and best friend to have ... You sound kinda great too.

Loved your story. :)

Kitty Moore said...

Hey Dan

I just stopped by to let you know that I want you to inflate my ego to dangerous levels. Then I read this post. You have a talent for the written word my friend - please don't take it down. It is a wonderfully written emotive piece (of you) that you have chosen to share and I for one am very happy that you did.

But enough of the soppy stuff (I'm not very good with emotion).

I'm high fiving your words right back!

Kitty xx

Jacque said...

Aw what a lovely post, Dan!! Don't take it down! I really admire your ability to expose something so personal to your readers. I know that it's easy to feel uncomfortable by being so personal with people you don't know in real life, but I think it reveals that you are slowly dealing with your regret and pain. It was a really sweet memory that touched me!
The mention of glow in the dark star stickers made me squee!! Oh, to answer you question! Yes, humans can squee if they become really excited with happiness and make a high-pitched squeaky noise!

Jenny said...

I really enjoyed reading this wonderful post. It was both touching and a tear jerker. Thank you for sharing, Dan. I look forward to reading future posts!


Dad.. said...

Very nice post. I too have wonderful and profound memories of some of my childhood toys. Great blog you have here. Cheers!

Ristinw said...

i almost tear up @.@
this blog is cool, love it!

Dan said...

A massive, massive thank you to anyone who has commented, I feel I bit funny going through each of them, so I will leave it to this. It really meant a lot to have others share possible similar situations.

It was a hard thing to write, but I felt good after doing it, and hearing people say how they felt the same way in places, just showed that everyone goes through hard times, but come through it at the other end.

I am really touched by the response to this. Thank you everybody.

Lopez said...

Seriously this brought tears to my eyes. Literally.

I have no words that can articulate a response to this post that is worthy of the writer...

Doctor FTSE said...

Only one thing to say, Dan. You are a BLOODY GOOD WRITER who should have higher targets than mere bloggin'! But please don't stop bloggin' mate, even when you've carried off your first Pulitzer . . 'cos these posts are just great.

secret agent woman said...

Here via JenJen - I actually have those stars on my own bedroom ceiling. I didn't discover them until I was an adult, but they've been up in the last four houses I've lived in. I love them.

Miss OverThinker said...

What a beautiful post! It must have been very hard to share this story, I had tears reading this.. I guess it brought back memories of my own dad.. keep writing Dan, never stop. I absolutely love your blog..