"Two things. Offer them something precious. Something they know you value. Your childhood jewellery box, the chair they like to snuggle up on from your bedroom, a vintage quilt. Give it to them and offer your trust. Try in this gift to instil in them respect for the history inherent in objects. Then give them something that respects their privacy: a tin for secrets for little ones, a vintage cupboard with a key for older children, a bolt on the inside of their doors for teenagers. An offer of trust is rarely underestimated by good kids and we should break it only in cases of moral life or death…. "
Your Puttery treats for childrens’ bedrooms struck such a deep cord with me. As I read it, I thought of my own childhood bedroom, and in particular the wallpaper, which was covered, in pink roses. The bedroom had originally belonged to my Nana, before she moved out of my parent’s house and into sheltered accommodation. The wallpaper was her choice, and even though my mother offered to redecorate, my five-year-old self refused. To me it was the most beautiful wallpaper in the world, big rosy blooms in a deep, dusky pink that made me feel as if I was sleeping in a garden. And it reminded me of her. I missed her dreadfully when she moved out, but oh how I loved sleeping in that room.
Up until then I had shared a room with my younger sister, but now I had my very own grown up bedroom full of wonderful possessions sourced from around the house. A little wicker chair made by my granddad was kindly donated by an older cousin who had outgrown it. My mum gave me the pink quilted eiderdown, which used to sit on her own bed when she was a little girl. Even her beloved childhood teddy bear found his way out of the airing cupboard where she had kept him hidden from the destructive hands of two toddlers, and into my bedroom.
She gave me her cork button box and I filled it with the craziest of things! A pair of chopsticks my mum had saved from an early date with my dad, a pair of my granddad’s cufflinks, programmes from shows my parents had been too. Such treasures!
I am quite sure there were new furniture, new curtains and the like, but certainly none of it sticks in my mind the way those second hand things do.
So while Flower Fairy duvet covers have been lost in the mists of time, barely given a second thought along with numerous plastic ponies and Cindy dolls, I still have that Teddy bear of my mum’s. He has absolutely no fur left, and is covered in patches and war wounds from over-zealous cuddles and adventures. Now fifty-eight years old, he’s back in the airing cupboard patiently biding his time until another little one plucks him from the shelf for bedtime snuggles.
And that pink eiderdown? I had it with me until my late teens, until after years of comforting my sister and I; it finally gave up the ghost after an ill-advised spell in the tumble drier.
Well now, all this has taken on another significance as I am eight whole wonderful weeks pregnant, and while my better judgement and usually cautious nature tells me not to get too excited, to wait silently and hopefully until those all important three months have passed, somehow I cannot keep it to myself. The news seems to burst out of me – perhaps I could think of convincing explanations for my tiredness, sickness, the sudden hormone induced tearfulness but I simply don’t want to. I am too excited, too positive that somehow everything is going to be just fine.
And more than anything, I want recreate for my child not just a bedroom, but a childhood layered in the familiar cosiness that I grew up with. So while it is too early for buying prams and cots and all the endless paraphernalia that inevitably comes with a new baby, my thoughts have been turning to things I already own. Things that fingers crossed, I will be able to pass onto my own child the way my mother did for me. The pillowcase my mum lovingly embroidered for my first Christmas…. which Father Christmas left my presents in year after year, is still carefully stored away. It is my hope that my son or daughter will hang up that pillowcase on Christmas Eve just as I did.
My old world-weary teddy could come out of the airing cupboard. Who knows, maybe I even have that old button box lying in a dusty corner of the loft. Or maybe, just maybe my child will pick her own treasures, taking some little trinket from my dressing table, adopting cushion from my bed, or perhaps something I’ve forgotten I even own. But whatever I pass on, intentionally or otherwise, I hope that it will as you say “instil in them respect for the history inherent in objects” and give him or her a little piece of my history, my childhood, my life.
By Elizabeth Redgrove.