hen I was 10 years old, I had a strange habit. I loved to rearrange my bedroom.
It was a very small room on the second floor just off the stairs. In it was a double bed, a tall dresser and vanity. It was so cramped that I had little space to walk.
Still, I would wake up, look around the room, and wonder what it would look like if the chest was moved to the north wall and the vanity placed by the window. I would also need to move the bed away from the door to make everything fit.
In the minds of most 10-year-olds, reconfiguring furniture might make an appearance, but only briefly. Their wandering imaginations would then turn to sailing across the high seas to make friends with pirates or taking a ride on the back of the robin outside the window.
But for me, the thought of moving the furniture put me into immediate action. Having little strength but otherworldly conviction, I would start with the dresser and inch it from one corner, then move to the other corner, and slowly walk it into place. In this way, I’d continue with the vanity and finally the bed.
Although the furniture was heavy, it never occurred to me to ask for help. I felt possessed and wasn’t satisfied until I’d pushed and pulled everything close to the wall, making the room feel new for my efforts.
I hadn’t thought much about this memory until visiting my old friend Sarah in Seattle, a city where I once lived.
Over a lunch of pasta primavera and grilled salmon, we caught up on each other’s lives. I told her about living in New York City, and she conveyed her pride in watching her children grow up, marry and have children of their own.
Though she’d aged, she still wore her hair long and preferred flowing, loose-fitting clothes and Birkenstocks. She credited New Age thinking for her improved relationship with her ex-husband, and for bettering her life in general. I smiled. She was the same Sarah I knew long ago.
But I certainly had changed, not only grown but also matured. I had traded my hiking boots for high heels and learned to live a cosmopolitan life. The nature-loving girl I had been in Seattle was now a cultured city woman, well-traveled and in-the-know.
Or so I thought.
“I remember,” Sarah said smiling. “That when you lived here, you were rearranging your apartment every other day. It was the funniest thing.”
My jaw dropped and I nearly choked on my food.
Was it true? Did I move things around even then? Of course I did, and I knew it.
And should I admit to Sarah that I had just rearranged my bedroom furniture before embarking on my visit to her?
I looked sheepishly down at my lap. I folded and refolded my napkin. I thought I’d changed, yet all it took was one comment to ruin my well-crafted façade.
It seems aspects of my 10-year old self were consistent with my 25-year-old self and now my midlife self. The compulsion I felt in my childhood bedroom as I inched my dresser across the room lived on inside me today. And now, as then, I feel renewed when my little redecoration schemes are finished.
As we ended our meal, I realized there was no escaping who I am. I shrugged it off and laughed along with Sarah. Because perhaps in this way, in these small recollections that endure over time, we still recognize each other as friends.