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In My Daughter’s Room

The wait seemed endless. To fill the days—and focus my hopes—I painted, sanded, stenciled, and gradually gave shape to our baby’s place in our home. by Lee C. Kemsley

Lee C. Kemsley

Of all the rooms in our house, our daughter’s has always been my favorite. This particular nook in our very old New England farmhouse has a knee-walk running the length of it, odd windows, and funny angles. Years ago, while we anxiously awaited news of progress on our adoption, I got to know this space intimately, inch by inch.

I spent a great deal of time making this room ready. It became my refuge, something tangible I could get my hands on while I waited for a phone call, a letter—anything that would connect us with our baby.

As the weeks passed into months, I began to decorate. I think this work—preparing a place for her—preserved my sanity. Up until then, all I had to hold on to were mountains of paperwork and seemingly endless cycles of red tape, which always ended in phone calls to adoption agency workers who had no more answers for us than they had the last time we called. I needed a focus for my most fervent hopes.

I chose my colors with great care. Every weekend I made the rounds of the antique stores and second hand shops, searching for just the right bed, the perfect mirror, a desk that fit nicely under the window. After an incredible amount of prep work, I painted it all a beautiful, creamy yellow. For the walls, I decided on stenciling over wallpaper. It was more hands-on—and would keep me busier, longer.

I am not a particularly artistic person, and I have never considered my “crafty.” But something deep inside me began to emerge. I was like a woman possessed. I chose a charming and very detailed set of stencils. I painstakingly painted rows of dancing teddy bears, each in a different costume. I outlined rocking horses with big, red hearts.  Parasols lined one wall, wildflowers another. To someone who usually looks for the shortest route to the finish line, this level of detail was something new, to say the least. But with each stroke of my brush, I felt a new life—the one we would share with our child—taking shape.

The end result was, shall we say, interesting. I’m not sure what a professional decorator would have said about it, but a dear friend said it looked like it was decorated with love. And it was—love, and a whole lot of anxiety. Many were the nights I sat in this room, in a carefully selected, lovingly sanded and painted rocker, looked at the walls, the stuffed animals, the colorful quilts, and imagined my child here.

My baby finally did arrive, bless her heart. The bears and all the rest of the stenciled crew have watched over her with me ever since.

Recently, and much to my surprise, she asked if we could repaint. Redecorate, in fact. It never once occurred to me that she might reach an age where teddy bears might seem a little young. In fact, it probably took a bit of courage for her to bring up the subject, knowing how attached I am to her room. But her enthusiasm soon won me over. At least, I grew used to the idea.

So she and I painted away the bears, balloons, and parasols. I thought it would be devastating for me. But when I saw how confident she was in her choices of colors, designs, and knickknacks, I could only feel proud and content. She is the real work of art. 

Lee C. Kemsley is a writer in northern Vermont, where she lives with her husband and daughter in an 1863 farmhouse.

Copyright 2002 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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