In my earliest memory—I guess I was two or three years old—I am stepping through a doorway into the most amazing room I have ever seen. The carpet is thick and soft, the couch is trim and ladylike with its red floral fabric and curved wooden legs, and a small hallway leads to the biggest bed I have ever seen, dressed in dainty blue bedcoverings and piled high with overstuffed pillows in crisp, white pillowcases.
“This is our room!” my dad says, and as my sister and I giggle and pounce on the bed, I tell myself that we must be the luckiest family in the world, to have both a regular home and also this special, extra room that belongs just to us.
The next memory I have of this room takes place when I am about five. We are coming home from a restaurant on a cool autumn evening, and I suggest to my parents that we spend the night in “our room,” since we haven’t been there in a while.
My parents seem to agree—but then I realize we are walking right into our regular old apartment building. “No, not this one. The room!” I say.
“That’s where we’re going,” my father tells me as he unlocks the door.
“No, not our apartment. Our room. Our room!”
“Here’s your room.” My mother points to the bedroom I share with my sister. “Your room. Right here.”
To this day, I have no idea if that room from long ago was real or if I just dreamed it up. But the one thing I do know is how lost and alone I felt that night, as my parents took off their coats and went about their business. I was the only one who remembered an amazing, magical room with thick carpet and an enormous bed, a room that had made me very happy. I realized I would always be the only one who remembered.
I didn’t think about that room again for many years. But then one night, in a way, it returned.
It happened soon after I left my job as a writer with a fast-paced business newspaper to move to Scarsdale with my husband and two-year-old son. I was truly grateful to be a stay-at-home mom and wouldn’t have had it any other way—yet this new life of tying and untying shoelaces, buttoning and unbuttoning coats, pulling mittens on and off, and and filling and emptying sand buckets took adjusting. The days were long, and the moments of delight were interspersed among hours of mind-numbing routines. There were times when the predictability of it all felt like living on a planet with too much gravity.
And then one evening when my husband was working late and David was asleep, I happened to turn the TV on to a reunion special about the Monkees, that Hollywood-manufactured sixties-era boy band whose members rocketed to stardom thanks to a hit television show, teen-idol looks and tuneful pop songs.
Now, nobody remembers the anguish of being a teenager more than I do, but watching that TV show, I suddenly felt only the good parts of being thirteen years old. How thrilling life could be when you still didn’t know who you were, which meant that you could become anybody. The world was huge, its arms wide open, and dreams could change in a flash to real life. Back then, I truly believed that one day I would travel to Hollywood and meet Davy Jones, and he would fall in love with me. Who could say it wouldn’t happen? Curled up on the living room sofa opposite the warm glow of the TV, I experienced all over again the sweet agony of infatuation, when even the shine of your crush’s hair is so beautiful, it can bring you to tears.
It felt a bit like going back to that room from long ago.
With single-minded determination, I schlepped David to various Blockbuster stores over the next few days, looking for cassettes or CDs with old Monkees songs, for DVDs with old Monkeees episodes, so I could come home and listen and watch some more. And sure enough, the songs and episodes kept all those feelings fresh—but only for a short while. Then they lost their power. I wondered: Was there no way I could save those amazing feelings of potential and possibility? Was there no way I could package them, to take out whenever I needed a lift?
And that’s when I realized the solution was to write.
It was back then that I started my novel, about a woman whose life is upended when she gets the chance to meet the teen idol she adored as a teenager. In my story, the woman is a magazine writer whose career has stagnated, and she learns while doing some article research that the teen idol from her past is now a small business owner living a few towns away. Through artifice, she arranges to meet him. And over the course of a few clandestine encounters, she begins to recapture the excitement for life she used to feel—but at what cost?
I finished that novel for the first time many years ago. I finished it for the second time a few years later, and I’m now working on my third rewrite. Of course, when my non-writer friends hear this, they look at me with disbelief: Why spend year after year rewriting the same story? And I understand their point, since they no doubt believe the only goal of writing a novel is to publish it. But I know there’s much more to writing.
Why do I write? I write to reenter those wonderful rooms from the past that exist in my head and my head alone. I write to feel all those thick carpets under my toes and jump on all those cushy and pillow-packed beds. I write to rediscover wonderful thoughts I once had and amazing things I once felt, because once I write them, I own them. I can revisit those places and those feelings whenever I want, and if my words don’t quite capture all I think they should, I can rewrite until they do.
Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to see this manuscript get published. Why wouldn’t I? But I decided a long time ago that even if it never ends up on a publisher’s list, it still means the world to me. It has brought so much back to me. In fact, I have this little fantasy that one day a gazillion years from now, when my life has slowed down and is nearing its end, I will have refurnished and repopulated all the far-off rooms I once knew and loved. And I’ll just sit back and enjoy them, one by one.
I write to find that that enormous bed with its dainty blue bedcoverings and overstuffed pillows. I write so I can make it mine for good.
Barbara Solomon Josselsohn is a freelance magazine writer specializing in home and family topics. Her articles and essays appear in Consumers Digest, Parents, American Baby, The New York Times, Westchester Magazine, Mamazina, and Big Apple Parent, as well as online at Consumersearch.com. She has studied novel writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is in the process of completing her first novel, The Last Dreamer, about a woman who meets the teen idol she adored as a teenage.