MY son’s room has been described more than once as a shrine. The object of his homage? The New York Rangers.
We are not just talking about a few posters on the wall. Nearly every square inch trumpets Paul’s support of the team.
A huge Rangers banner that hangs from the ceiling dominates the room. In the corner is a larger-than-life cardboard cutout of Wayne Gretzky, hockey stick outstretched, waiting for a pass. The bed has not only a Rangers cover and a Rangers pillow, but also sheets with hockey pucks on them.
There are signed hockey sticks over the windows, which themselves are decorated with Rangers decals. The computer mouse pad has the team logo. There are framed, signed Rangers jerseys above the computer.
It goes without saying that the walls are covered with posters, photographs and calendars that celebrate the team. (Ticket stubs from games are kept in a separate box, memories too precious to stick on the wall.)
I think you get the picture. My son is the kind of fan whose spirits rise and fall with the performance of the team, who follows every blip of Rangers news, remains highly opinionated about the strengths and weaknesses of each player, and who sounds to me at this point as if he’s ready to step up to the coach’s job, in the event that the latest one doesn’t work out.
This room didn’t come together overnight, of course. The memorabilia was collected from the time he was an early fan — back in his elementary school days — until now. Today he is a college sophomore. He still lives and breathes hockey. But he doesn’t really live in that room anymore.
I am careful about going in there while he’s at school, because it makes me miss him too much. Just standing in the doorway sets me back. That’s because to me this room is more than a monument to a hockey team. It’s really a shrine to the little boy who grew up there.
Paul was placed in a crib as a newborn in that room. He spent endless hours of his childhood in there, playing with his Matchbox cars, painstakingly organizing his hockey cards, reading and, as he got older, studying, cramming for SATs, logging hours on Facebook with his friends and, finally, packing for college.
When I look past all the Rangers stuff, I can still see remnants of other parts of Paul’s childhood. High up on a shelf is the stuffed penguin he once slept with. There are a few little cars on the shelf — and of course, a few mini-Zambonis. There are class pictures from elementary school, team pictures from high school, soccer trophies and a program from a jazz concert he played in.
Recently, I spotted a brochure about a college study-abroad program — he hopes to spend a semester in Spain next year. There was also a pile of clothes he had outgrown. As it is, he can barely fit his long frame in that childhood bed.
This, I know, is a room in transition. His sister’s room is just down the hall, and farther along in the process of transforming from a child’s room to the room of someone who once lived there.
Jeanie graduated from college two years ago. Her room, too, mirrors the girl she once was. The canopied bed still has a Laura Ashley spread, and there are matching curtains on the windows. But there is also a Zebra-patterned throw that appealed to her in middle school. At one point she balked at her pink walls and carpets — now the carpet is a moss green and the walls a sky blue. It feels as if you are outside and it also feels very much like a reflection of Jeanie’s spirit.
Photos of laughing groups of friends are tacked on the wall, spread on the bureau and tucked into the corners of her mirror. There are half-melted candles and countless hair accessories. The shelves and the desk are crammed with dozens of books, ranging from childhood favorites to Michel Foucault’s “Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth,” with plenty of trashy novels and great literature in between.
But things are also starting to disappear from that room. A lamp went to her apartment in the city. So did some sheets and blankets. And a small painting that used to hang on her wall. And some framed photos. It’s still my daughter’s room, but as she settles more deeply into her independent life, her essence gets more and more stripped out of those four walls.
I would be lying to say that I miss the disorder — the scattered papers, the piles of clothes, the dirty tea mugs — that were also very much a part of Jeanie’s occupancy. But I do miss the girl who lived there.
On a recent college vacation, Paul brought a friend home, and as they entered his room, it seemed like the Rangers shrine had for the first time become slightly embarrassing. “It’s sort of a little boy’s room,” he said with a small smile.
Paul will probably always root for the team and follow its fortunes. In the years to come, he will see great players rise and fall, playoffs come and go, and coaches hired and fired. And if all the stars align, he will see the Rangers bring home another Stanley Cup, something that will bring him enormous joy no matter what age he’ll be. But the little-boy adoration that was reflected in his room has already been replaced with a more nuanced understanding of professional sports.
I suspect, over time, his monument to the hockey team will slowly be dismantled. A poster here. A signed photograph there. I doubt that the Rangers bedspread will make the move to an adult apartment, though you never know. If it doesn’t, I doubt I will ever remove it.