When I was five years old I fell asleep with Karen and Richard Carpenter staring at me from a poster above my bed.
Why was the poster above my bed and not my sister’s? Because I was the little sister. What was hers was hers, and what was mine was hers. Our twin beds were so close we could reach out and touch each other, and probably did, in a not-so-loving manner. The DMZ was occupied by a brave, lonely nightstand.
And the room definitely could not contain our fights. For seven years my sister had the room to herself. When I came along, she suddenly had to share. Those who say sharing a room builds character obviously never did.
Want to hear the worst part? We shared a closet with sliding doors. This was a 1957 vintage house with closets that were about four feet wide and a hangar’s depth. Add in two twin beds, two dressers, a nightstand, a sewing machine and a vanity, and there was barely room to turn around.
We each had a dresser top for our belongings. She sewed, so nothing could ever go on top of the sewing machine cabinet. She commandeered the entire vanity table. We had an uneasy truce about the closet, and it was roughly split in half by duct tape. Our parents refused to let us put tape down the center of the room, otherwise we would have done that, too.
When my brother went to college, sweet freedom beckoned. I took over his room, including his double bed. My sister and I were able to get a little breathing room, but I lived like a nomad because I had to move back out when he came home.
Eventually, he left home for adulthood and my sister took over his room. I stayed in our room. My sister went off to college, too, but came home nearly every weekend. We peacefully co-existed, more or less. She lived at home once she got her first post-college job, which turned out to be a blessing when my dad fell ill and we needed another adult to help out.
We now are best friends and talk to each other by phone every day. We were each other’s maids of honor at our weddings. It’s hard to say if living together made us closer as adults.
Sharing lead to caring?
My daughters tried sharing a room at one point in our three bedroom house when they were much younger. It went surprisingly well – no duct tape required – until one complained that the other snored. Now they have had separate bedrooms for years but are in each other’s rooms all the time.
My sister and I can now laugh about our epic battles and realize we probably both played a role in most of them. Those who knew us then are really surprised at how much time we spend together now, despite being two states away. We have gone on vacation together and have even discussed moving closer to each other as we retire.
Maybe sharing a room does build character – or at least tolerance.