Hello, my name is Lauren Bayhue. The Room of My Life is a project I’ve created while in psychoanalysis with the renowned Dr. Oliver Cuddles.Â This is Dr. Cuddles:
The purpose of this undertaking is to troll my personal history through the spaces, or rooms, that have held my life in order to come to terms with my past so that I can, uh, embrace the future.
Here is The Rooms Of My Life, Part I, in case you missed it.
When I left off I was about six years old and we were living in a suburban house just outside Chicago. I had my own room but I spent a lot of time in the kitchen:
What I liked to do was sneak in there when my mom was in another part of the house and eat Oreos out of the clown cookie jar. I could easily polish off about 20 of them in an afternoon and then she would wonder where all the Oreos went. She never accused me of eating them all but she would wonder about it out loud while she made dinner. I never confessed. In fact, I had the audacity to then add them to the next grocery list.
I think this picture of the kitchen was taken on the summer afternoon we found out that Dad would be going to prison. Well, let me amend that. We found out that Dad had been arrested and would be going on trial for money laundering and extortion. The part about running a prostitution ring came out later. And the prison thing came about after he was found guilty. Anyway, I digress.
I remember that afternoon because my mother and my brothers, Kenneth and Royce and I were all standing around eating watermelon. It was a hot day and my brothers and I had just biked home from the community pool. And the watermelon was so good and cold and the juice was dripping down my chin when the doorbell rang.
And that was that.
Even though our suburban home just outside Chicago was not grand by any means (look at that kitchen!) after Dad went to the Big House we were forced to move. My mother claimed she could not handle three kids on her own with no income so my grandparents agreed to let my brothers live with them in Wisconsin. They didn’t like me all that much, which bothered me at the time.
My mother found a tiny apartment at the top of what used to be a grand mansion but had since been carved up into small apartments and studios. We had no air-conditioning and there were several wasp nests in the eaves. When we had our windows open, which we usually did so as not to suffocate, the wasps would fly in and settle on all our stuff. It was not unusual for me to wake up with the headboard of my bed covered in wasps.
It never occurred to my mother to demand that the owners spray the wasp nests. She was too busy working two jobs. I was often left with a young woman who lived in a studio apartment on the second floor. She smoked pot all day and had me occupy myself by cutting up fashion magazines while she watched TV.
Still, my mother made sure that one corner of our apartment served as my bedroom:
This was the photo she sent to my grandparents to assure them that we were doing just fine. I don’t think it ever looked like this again. What you can’t see is that the rest of the room is our living room and dining area. Once the roof started to leak in my mother’s room, she started sleeping with me in my bed. The nice thing about that was that she’d get rid of all the wasps before I woke up, especially the dead ones that had fallen from the headboard into my hair. Wasps die more often than you think.
The second summer my mother and I were on our own, I went for an extended trip to Wisconsin to see my brothers. I hadn’t seen them in a year. They shared a bedroom in my grandparents’ home. My grandmother bought them bunk beds, which made me insanely jealous:
I had to sleep on the floor, which made me cry. My grandmother said, “If you don’t like the floor, sleep in the chair,” meaning the hard-backed one you can see in the bottom left of the photo. I tried that one night but ended up falling on the floor anyway. My brother Royce tried to convince me that it wasn’t so bad to sleep on the floor because it was “blue, like the ocean,” and I could pretend to be sailing at night.Â When he couldn’t sleep, he would lie in his bunk and move his sailboat across the “water” making an annoying sliding/creaking sound that kept me awake.
Neither one of my brothers would let me have their bunk or sleep with them. Kenneth said that sharing a bed would be breaking “the last taboo.” I have no idea what he was talking about. He was five years older than me and thought he knew everything.