"Where's Minnie?" I asked with a quiver in my voice, and that was it. Trying to hide tears from your mother is like trying to hide a pocket full of sausage from a dog.
It's completely dissatisfying to learn that a cliché has truth to it. It's hard to feel as though you're having a unique experience when so many others have been there before. But here I was trying to grasp the concept that I can never go home again. My parents turned my bedroom into a guest room. Things won't ever be the same.
I have to admire my parents' stealth. They approached the situation with much cunning. Like anyone facing a potentially volatile and embarrassing situation, my parents chose to tell me about their DIY home-reno project while I was in a public place and not likely to cause a scene. They broke the news over the phone while I was at work. I had to maintain a professional tone as I explained, "I look forward to discussing this initiative with you in more detail," and counselled, "We should not move forward with this plan until we can ensure all parties are onboard."
But I was too late. Swatches and samples had already been brought into the house. There was no turning back.
The news was shocking and left me feeling helpless. Sisters No. 1 and No. 2 offered no sympathy. Their bedrooms had been transformed into a sewing room and a home office, respectively. And that's when the gravity of the situation hit - without your bedroom, you have nowhere to stomp to, no door to slam and no familiar bed to throw yourself onto when your family makes you crazy.
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Growing up, your bedroom is your castle, your situation room, your slumber-party space. I secretly believed that after I moved out, my room would remain a museum, a treasury of my childhood. It would not be affected by my parents' domestic beautification projects. I'm the baby of the family, after all.
I was wrong.
Weeks after the phone call, I came home to see the finished project. My electric-turquoise walls had been painted over in desert camel. My teeny twin bed and matching dresser were gone - snapped up by the highest bidder on Kijiji - and had been replaced by adult-sized furniture. I felt faint.
I couldn't believe this organized closet had once been bursting with prom dresses, old runners, sentimental sweatshirts, boxes of university textbooks and, I'll admit, loads of crap. The walls were vulnerable and exposed without layers of photos, postcards and posters of questionably talented heartthrobs.
Over the years my room had become a dumping ground for everything I couldn't fit into my tiny downtown Toronto apartment. Now there was no clutter, everything matched and, for the first time, the room was clean. You could actually see the pink carpet. I suddenly felt nostalgic for my parents' threats to send a front-end loader into my "indoor garage." Everything had been stripped bare and I swear I could hear an echo.
What I should have been thinking was, "Try not to cry. Try not to cry. You're an adult. You haven't lived at home in more than a decade. You don't need a bedroom."
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Unfortunately, these thoughts never crossed my mind. I was sad. I felt I had every right to cry but I knew my parents had put in hours and hours of work. It would be impossible to pass off my tears as a glowing review.
And then I saw it. A dark outline on my bedroom door. Suddenly, the whole room reno wasn't even a little bit okay. "Where's Minnie?" I asked, and my tears began.
When I was 6, my parents put a Minnie Mouse sticker on my bedroom door and an identical sticker on my Grade 1 locker. When I was at school, I could look at the sticker and think of home and not feel scared. It made me brave.
But now the sticker was gone. Scraped off and in the garbage. And here I was, a 29-year-old crying in her former bedroom-turned-boutique hotel room, feeling like a baby. Where's Minnie when you need her?
That night, I tucked myself into the giant foreign bed, pulled up the luxurious duvet and surveyed the new territory. To my parents' credit it is a gorgeous room, bright and cozy and nicely decorated. The dog and cat, possibly the only creatures more unsettled than I by the transformation of our home, jumped warily onto the bed, confused by the missing clutter and fun things to sniff and hide behind.
I could tell my parents were feeling guilty and were suffering from Minnie-removal remorse. I didn't want to make it worse. When they came to say good night I managed to tell them "my room" looked great. To which they replied, "Don't make a mess."
Maybe you can come home again. Even if Minnie is only in your mind.
Geneviève Parent lives in Toronto.
Illustration by Josée Bisaillon.