‘My childhood bedroom acts as an interactive time capsule’

My mother has lovingly preserved my Belfast room for 12 years while I've lived in Dublin, London and Sydney


Last week we asked Irish Times Abroad readers to send us stories about their childhood bedrooms, and how they felt about returning to sleep in them over Christmas. Jonathan Drennan, who couldn't make it back to Belfast from Sydney this year, sent us this piece.

Jonathan Drennan in Sydney: ‘The walls would tell you a lot about my teenage anxiety’

I call my bedroom in Belfast “the museum”. My mother is a diligent and skilled curator, and has lovingly preserved it for the last 12 years. Once I walk into the room, I am back to 2004. I am short in size and confidence, and have no clue what will happen to me on leaving my home. I may have put on some weight and inches in height since then, but the bedroom acts as an interactive time capsule to my last year in Belfast as a child.

Everywhere you look, there are symbols of my teenage life. There is a perfectly-preserved homework timetable pinned to my noticeboard and an invitation to my school debs that proudly boasts of a dry bar, canapes and dancing. I think of things that I thought mattered in those days: What table would I sit at? Who would I ask? Would any girl want to go with me? The overblown fears of a naturally neurotic teenager were played out in this bedroom nightly.

My shelves stubbornly remain those of a child. A full set of small plastic Tintin figurines that were faithfully collected on family holidays to France stand at attention, bleached almost white by rare instances of Northern Irish summer sun through the window.

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Crippled with nerves

If my bedroom walls could talk, you wouldn’t stay long for the conversation. No girl illicitly crossed the threshold, it was far too creaky and would have alerted my mother. Besides, I went to an all-boys school and was crippled with nerves.

Also, as far as I am aware, the 1990s football and Simpsons stickers attached lovingly to my single bed would not have set the mood. Instead, the walls would tell you a lot about my teenage anxiety, coiled on my desk late into the night struggling to understand maths homework yet again, and fearful of the teacher's wrath the next day at school.

Still, I love this bedroom dearly. It reminds me of many happy times, living in a neighbourhood that I feel so privileged to have grown up in. My window has the perfect view of my next-door neighbour’s large garden and I see a crumbling treehouse where we spent so many long summer nights, planning our lives.

I look down at the hedge that separates our houses. When I was younger my best friend who lived next door and I fashioned a hole that acted as an easy passage. We also had an unreliable cup phone between our bedrooms. My best friend died tragically young a few years ago while I was living far from home and the gap has grown over, but my memories refuse to quell looking out my window.

Crammed bookshelf

Above my bed, there is a crammed bookshelf that can tell you something about my life. I hated reading as a child, despite my mother's best efforts with Patricia Lynch's epic, The Turf-Cutter's Donkey. That particular book still sits there unopened, beside well-creased and predictable sporting biographies that slowly made me widen my literary options. I started to love Orwell, Wilde and Yeats, and I spent so many nights alone reading upstairs, unaware that this gradual love of literature would lead me to university in Dublin.

My bedroom isn’t very big, but I always felt very lucky to have my own space, when so many of my school friends had to share with squabbling siblings. I left this room as a teenager, returning sporadically over the years to sleep as I moved from Dublin, to London and now finally to Sydney. Life moves on, and in many cases it gets more complicated. My childhood bedroom is a place I am always so grateful to return to, it reminds me of difficult and also treasured times that helped shape the person I have become today.