The Things That Matter
IN 1972, MY FAMILY FINALLY MOVED TO A HOUSE BIG ENOUGH for me to have a room that was mine and mine alone. I was 11, a wannabe flower child chafing under the stern restrictions imposed by my Jordanian-born father, who harbored a vast suspicion of all American popular culture. Because I wasn't allowed to go to parties or dances, I channeled my creative energies into my glorious new bedroom.
My American-born mother, who was in charge of home decor, let me select the striated, rose-colored, floor-length curtains that filtered the morning sunlight and filled my room with a fiery glow. I was drawn to intense, eye-popping colors -- the more vivid the look, the more it belonged to me. I covered my walls with black-light posters of peace signs and rock bands, hung canary-yellow mobiles (so many, a visitor had to duck to get from one side of the room to the other), filled my door with curtains of brilliant purple beads that made a satisfying jingle every time someone passed through. I covered my desk, dresser and bookcase with dozens of strawberry-scented votive candles. But, even with this innovation, I felt the room wasn't quite complete.
One day I was peeping into the windows of my favorite store in downtown Syracuse -- Jasmine Imports -- when I saw it. I stopped dead in my tracks. "Oh, my God," I breathed.
"What? What?" My younger sisters Suzy and Monica looked around.
"There." I pointed. "Look." It was an immense, flowing, magenta-pink shag bedspread. I'd never seen anything like it. I had to have it.
The salesclerk was at a loss for words. "You want that? I think Raji put it out as a joke."
Mom thought that it wasn't really a bedspread at all, but a rug that they'd thrown onto a bed frame. But we turned it over and discovered that the long, finger-thick shag fibers were hooked into some sort of heavy cotton fabric, and the whole thing was cut and seamed for a queen-size bed. "But even if it is a bedspread . . ." Mom said slowly. "It's not normal." She thought I was being perverse, hankering after something so loud, so egregiously strange.
How to explain these odd passions? I'd always been a slightly off-kilter kid. From age 6 to 7 1/2, I wore a Daniel Boone hat on a daily basis. Why? I don't know, but these were the odd wavelengths of my childhood; I loved that hat the way I loved the flag of Malta tied to my bicycle, the way I loved my chest-covering Aztec calendar necklace, all of which found ultimate expression in the way I loved the pink bedspread.
There wasn't a price tag on it, so the clerk shrugged and said, "Twelve bucks?" There was no shopping bag big enough so the salesgirl handed me a receipt, and my sisters and I carried it out like a body. We took it home in the trunk of the car.
Once home, we wrestled it onto my bed: It lit up the whole room with its flowing electric magenta fibers, like a hallucinogenic dream. I sighed with admiration.
It was an instant sensation. We invited over friends and family for viewings. Everyone under 15 loved it. Adults shielded their eyes. My bedspread was a personality, a fabric canvas, so imposing we had to give it a name. Mom suggested "The Blob," but Monica cut to the chase, "Big Pink."
Dad grumbled over this decor innovation, concerned that Big Pink could be a sign of weakening morality, but eventually he decided to let it stay.