Randy says that, as a kid, his imagination was hard to contain. Halfway through high school he had this urge to externalize some of his thoughts onto the walls of his bedroom. When he asked his parents for permission and they wondered what he wanted to paint, he told them, “things that matter” to him. That was explanation enough for his father (who “loved to watch the spark of enthusiasm turn into fireworks”), but his mother wasn’t so sure, though she relented in the face of Randy’s excitement. For two days, Randy, Tammy, and his friend Jack Sheriff painted the walls of Randy’s bedroom. His father sat in the living room, reading a newspaper and waiting, whereas his mother hovered outside his door the whole time, totally anxious, trying to sneak a peak constantly.
Randy, as a high school kid, quite literally strives to turn his dreams into realities; this is literally shown in the way he externalizes his imagination onto his bedroom walls. Randy’s father, in this instance, embodies the idea of an optimistic attitude having a positive impact on life. Randy’s dad understands that Randy’s excitement is reason enough to give his son permission to realize his ideas, whereas his mother, had she stopped him from painting his walls, could have seriously limited Randy’s ability to visualize (and perhaps actualize) his dreams.
What did they paint? A quadratic equation (celebrating Randy’s inner nerd), chess pieces, Jack Sheriff wrote the words “I’m trapped in the attic!” backwards on the ceiling so it looked like they’d imprisoned someone, and Jack and Randy together painted an elevator door with “Up” and “Down” buttons above the elevator, with a painted panel with floor numbers labeled one through six. The number three was illuminated. Also, near Randy’s bed, he drew a periscope rising above the bedspread, and Tammy and Randy painted their version of Pandora’s box, a story Randy was drawn to because he liked its optimistic ending. So, inside his Pandora’s box, Randy wrote the word “Hope,” over which Jack Sheriff couldn’t resist writing “Bob.”
The title of this chapter, ‘Elevator in the Ranch House,’ refers to the painted elevator in Randy’s room, and in a way it comes to symbolize Randy’s focus on enabling imagination and turning dreams into realities. Of course there’s no elevator, nor a person trapped in the attic, but this whole scenario teaches Randy to think outside the box (the literal box of his room, in this case). It also shows him that if he has a dream, makes it a goal, and works hard at it, it can become a reality, like the walls of his room.
Since it was the late 70’s, Randy also wrote, “Disco sucks!” over his door, and the only alteration his mom made was painting over the word “sucks.” When Randy showed them his room, his mother wasn’t initially thrilled, but over time she began to appreciate it, as whenever she toured people around her house everyone thought Randy’s room was really cool. Randy ends the chapter with advice to parents—if your kids want to paint their bedrooms, let them, because although it might ding the house’s resale value a bit, it’s a treasure for Randy every time he returns there. When Randy visits home, he still sleeps in the bunk bed his father built, looks at his walls, and falls “asleep feeling lucky and pleased.”
The fact that Randy’s childhood bedroom is still painted with his childhood imaginings means that every time he returns home, he is reintroduced to his own creativity, imagination, and ability to dream. This could be part of the reason Randy is so focused on—and so successful at—turning his dreams into realities.