Colour Coordinated

A memoir

I moved out after graduation. It was time. I was done with highschool, and it was time to grow up for real. Technically I was now a young adult, a grown-up. I needed space to strike out independently. So it was decided. As my graduation present from my parents, I would finally have my own room.

Before that glorious day, I’d shared a room with someone my entire life. Well, except for the first two years. Two months after I turned two, my little sister Stephanie was born. She took sole possession of my nursery and my parents bought a bunk bed for me and my older brother to share in his bedroom. When I was six years old we moved to a bigger house in Walnut Grove. I thought maybe I’d get my own room in the new house. No such luck. My younger sister and I spent the first two nights living in that house sleeping on our mattresses on the floor in the room we would share for the next twelve years.

Sharing a room with her wasn’t all bad. It allowed time and space for countless heart-to-heart conversations, givng advice on each other’s wardrobe, and the sharing of “sister secrets” under the cover of night. We frequently indulged in evenings of contagious laughter as a result of over-tired goofiness, and spent many enjoyable hours playing with our Barbie dolls, side by side. Although we didn’t really have a place to go to be alone, the two of us were able to grow individually, but together.

Once we reached the age where the colour of bedroom walls mattered to us, the answer was found using simple logic: her favourite colour was blue, mine was pink. Our walls could only be a cartoon shade of bright purple. We owned our living space equally, and the wall colour reflected that.

Of course, being that close all the time wasn’t easy. There would always be the argument of whether the hallway light had to be on as we went to sleep and who would raise the challenge of, “No, it shines right in my eyes!”

Our quirks would frequently get on each others’ nerves. For most of our time living together we had bunk beds, but the kind that had the bottom bunk detached. My tall bed was always against the wall and we had Steph’s bed shoot out from under mine, perpendicularly. This formed the perfect arrangement for me to use her bed as a makeshift ladder. In one fluid motion, like an acrobat swinging up onto a higher platform, I would step up on her mattress, lean over the railing above, and clamber up to my nest. She hated that. To this day, she will tell me that was the worst part about sharing a room with me.

The worst part about sharing a room with her? Well, that can be explained in two words: clothes, everywhere. On the floor, on her bed, spilling out of the drawers of her dresser. I’m not sure if it was the overwhelming result of getting hand-me-downs both from me and our older cousins, but it was a disaster. We tried having “mine and yours” sides of the room, but her clothes were like desperate refugees illegally crossing the border into my territory in the hopes of finding dignity in being folded and put back properly. See, I was the clean freak, and Steph was the free spirit.

Within our moments of tension, we created a silent language. A glance or a glare made the difference between whether my presence was welcomed at that moment or if she needed alone-time. I would just stare at the hoodie (or other clothing item) she’d dropped on the floor for a little longer than curiosity would call for, before she would take the hint to put it in the closet. It usually only made it to the end of her bed.

But she was finally out from under my anal-retentive thumb, and I was freed from her wild and carefree lifestyle the day after my graduation ceremony.

We chopped the legs of my tall twin bed down to average size, packed all her clothes haphazardly into the drawers of her dresser, and slowly extracted all her possessions from our formerly common living quarters, down the hall to my brother’s old room.

Technically she was the one who moved out, but I was just happy to have this once shared environment as my sole sanctuary.

I wouldn’t say I was sad to see Steph’s belongings leave the space they once called home. I could actually see the floor in places I hadn’t for the last decade. But what I found myself missing was the presence of the person who made those messes and made me frustrated and annoyed and craving my own space almost every day. Now that my wish had come true, I did miss having her around.

Her new room had light blue walls and her clothes frequently took their place on the floor. The purple walls of our room were painted over in a light pink how I liked. The move was visible at that point; our colours were separated, just as we were.

With the excitement of graduation and prom and moving our rooms all happening on the same weekend, I got used to having my own space quite quickly. But even weeks after all the partying and fuss was over, Steph and I spent an evening together in her new room (on her newly installed laminate flooring) eating popcorn and apples, watching Netflix. Just like the old days. Only this was her own space and I had mine. And we were okay with that. It was time. She had two years before she graduated and I was starting university in the fall. We were growing up, and sometimes growing up means growing apart, literally.

But sharing a room with my younger sister helped shape me into the person I am now. I would say that if Stephanie and I had had our own rooms from the start, we definitely wouldn’t be as close as we are today. Our moments of laughter, giddiness, frustration, and sadness shaped us both. They are forever a part of who we are and how we interact as sisters. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.