How is it that I've never told the story of the purple room here?
When I was a kid, my dad was a magic man. I think lots of people felt this way about him, but I have proof. I have the stories.
Sometime around 1978 my father moved to a small, Oregon town called Pleasant Hill. He found a 5-bedroom log cabin on a few acres of land, the gravel driveway a mile long. The first time I visited the Pleasant Hill house, the room that would be mine was empty save for a hideous, wall-to-wall, red shag carpet. Also living in this house were my dad's then-girlfriend; her ancient, very hostile cat; and a lesbian couple running a graphic design business called Laughing Giraffe. For reasons that will always remain a mystery, the red shag carpet in my room was where the cat chose to shit.
While spending that first weekend in the house, my father asked me one of his “blue-sky” questions. Those questions turned out to be a constant part of our relationship over the years, but I didn't know that then. “What would your dream bedroom look like?” “Purple,” I told him.
Throughout my childhood I flew between my parents every 6-weeks, or whenever there was a school holiday, whichever came first. The next time I visited my dad, the first question out of my mouth was “Did you have a chance to do anything to my room?" And in perfect Steven fashion he explained that yes, in fact, he had. He went on to describe how he'd had a clear, plastic mat laid down over the entire carpet so that while you could still see the shit, you wouldn't step in it. Ever wonder where I learned to be such a damn smart-ass?
When we arrived at the house, my bedroom door was closed. Opening it, I cried tears of happiness for the first time in my life. A tricolor purple carpet replaced the ugly, red one. A white canopy bed had a beautiful dark purple spread, with a gauzy lavender canopy covered in tiny purple flowers. The sliding-glass doors were covered by curtains made of the same fabric. All the bedding had been handmade by a local woman who seemed to be to be 100 years old (she also made the amazing, quailed hippie vests and skirts that my dad bought me over the years). The walls were painted lavender and sitting in front of one of them was an unfinished, wooden dollhouse for me to paint.
There are so many stories like this about my dad and I want to be clear — this is not about money. It wasn't that he spent money to give me this room. It was that he heard me. He paid attention to the things I told him about myself and he did what he could to make my (and many other people's) blue-sky dreams a little closer to reality. That was the magic.
I love you, Dad. Thank you.
Steven Millman Rappaport
Dec. 5, 1942 – July 4, 2007
Note: Sadly, there are no photos of the purple room. The above photo was taken in the Pleasant Hill house around the same time as this story takes place. We are shown here dressed in our finest 1970s polyester and corduroy.