The Flashlight
Into The Mystic

My Grandmother's Bed


In March I served an eviction notice to just about every stick of furniture in my house. I called my mother and said, it's time to send the bed. She said, I was waiting for you to get rid of what you had. I said, don't worry, it's leaving. She said, ok. It was more entertaining and complicated than that in the end and to be fair she seriously took the brunt of the planning and back end effort while I threw myself into the process of selling every single piece of furniture that wasn't entirely mine (that would be Lucia's bedroom furniture which belonged to my great-aunt - did I get that right, Mom? and Little Girl's bedroom furniture which was acquired specifically for her). OK, there might have been one or two other pieces left over from marriage number 2 but NOT MUCH.

In the purging I erased Nomans from our home. It had to be done for my sanity and more importantly the emotional well being of Little Girl who last spoke with her step-daddy in 2009. So you see? It all had to go.

In the mean time, while posting and selling all this 'stuff' on Craigslist I started replacing on Craigslist. A couple of things happened when I did this. I had an experience similar to buying a car off lease instead of new. One, it costs a lot less, two, it isn't directly supporting the making of more stuff (it's once removed but it's something). I also discovered that my tastes ran in an entire other direction from what I once believed to be true. I shocked the shit out of myself basically. I answered to no one and I now love every stick of functional furniture in my house. Also, most of it is very old. Go figure.

I once wore my mother's size 9 shoes when I was scared and needed to speak in public or just make a sales call on site. I don't mean one time, I mean a lot of times until I didn't really need to anymore which is a good thing because Mom's size 9 and my size 9 are not the same size 9. Who knew? So I wore these shoes; these seemingly innocuous black leather pumps which are the base of the power suit for women. You don't see them coming until they're standing on you.

So. My grandmother's bed. My grandfather retrofitted it to take a queen size mattress. He did a beautiful job doing his best to duplicate the hardware with good reason. When it arrived I asked the two moving men to assemble it in it's retrofitted state and the original iron rails and coil springs stayed in the lower level.

The first night I slept like a corpse with my cat in a death grip that even relaxed held him in place until morning. I do not remember ever sleeping like that. Maybe I used to sleep like that all the time. Maybe I've just forgotten what it is to sleep un-haunted. When I got up I looked at the bed and said, thank you bed, but this still isn't right.

Lucia was not pleased. She was home sick on Tuesday (the movers came on Monday) and when I got home from work I woke her up so that she would help me fix the bed. We removed the unbelievably heavy queen mattress and shoved it up against a wall in case I changed my mind. We took the platform into the hall (that kind of mattress does not need a box spring). We removed the retrofitting and put that with the platform. We carried up the rails and we put the bed together as it was meant to be. Look at this:


There isn't any hardware to speak of. That male puzzle piece thing at the end of the rail fits neatly into the female puzzle piece thing at the foot board (and the same at the headboard). It slides in like butter because it is tapered at the bottom and doesn't require any sort of force to be snug. Gravity does all the work. 

Then we carried the original coil spring thingy up the stairs, down the hall and into the bedroom and tried to work out how the hell it was supposed to rest on this frame and not fall to the floor. Duh. Slats. Right. I had a spare set in the furnace room. Doesn't everyone have a spare set of bed slats in the furnace room? I didn't think so. It's like having parts left over after assembling a crib; you kind of have to wonder what ought to be where...

The downstairs room which was my son's and then the nanny's had a double bed. We dragged that mattress upstairs and flopped it onto the springs. Yikes!

Who is old enough to remember bouncy beds? Come on, fess up. I don't mean old box springs, I mean coil springs like what you can see a bit of in the last photo. My mother said, are you nuts? Do you have motion sickness medicine? I said, Mom, I'm not doing anything that would move the bed. Note the single head of household status on my tax return. She said, that wasn't what I meant. 

Turned out not to matter. The bed is magic. I am sleeping in the arms of the women in my maternal line. Even though the bed only goes back three generations the magic goes back much further than that. My great-grandparents bought the bed for my grandmother. My great-great-great-grandparents (Mom, is that anywhere near accurate?) settled in Missouri and were doctors and farmers and hardware store owners. (and burners down of back porches with flaming popcorn apparently but we won't get into that). The other thing about the bed is that it was always a girl's bed. Never a shared bed. 

In any event, with regard to the overall bounciness apparently it mattered to the cat. The bed moves when his little 8lb body walks across it no matter how stealthy he's being. He was miffed enough to sleep with the dog but got over it by Thursday. Last night he was right back where he belonged - in a death grip to my right.

The furniture that goes with the bed is not brass. That's because bedroom furniture is not supposed to be brass. It's supposed to be wood. That's the rule as I understand it. The furniture is something called Birdseye Maple. I knew what it was because I was told at some point when I was younger but I didn't know how incredibly rare it had become. I have a small writing desk (which is a perfect sewing table), a vanity with a mirror and a chest of drawers otherwise known as a chiffonier according to the label on the back which is not to be confused with what turns out to be a chifforobe in Lucia's room. There are two rocking chairs both fairly low to the ground. One is armless and is for a child (Little Girl laid claim to it instantly and dragged into the living room) and the other with arms is for an adult. It's the most well made, solid piece of sitting upon furniture I've ever seen.


Obviously that's not the rocking chair, it's the chiffonier. I didn't take a picture of the rocking chair because it's covered in quilt fabric and I didn't feel like moving it. This is better anyway because of the hardware used to mount the mirror. Check this out:


Like the puzzle pieces on the bed frame gravity is doing the work here. The 'pin' (it's not a pin! it's a triangle of not so bendy steel) is tapered and therefore slides right in - one on each side and that thing isn't going anywhere! And then there is this:

That little pinwheel like thing is what tightens the screw which holds the frame for the mirror to the vanity. I tightened it by hand. I've never seen anything like it. The mirror is attached with a screw on each side which is just like a dresser knob without the except the screw part is going out, not in. I didn't take a picture of that; I was much more enamored with the pinwheel thing. 

This is gratuitous because I cannot believe the sticker is still on the back. It's a copyright notice dated July 28, 1903 (that's the date of the copyright, not the manufacture) that has something to do with how the glass is packed for moving.


So here's the thing. I haven't put anything into this dresser yet. I haven't done that because when I open the drawers the smell of my grandparent's house comes up to meet me and I'm back in my mother's childhood bedroom where I once ate the petrified blue marshmallow bunny (made by my mother when she was small) one small bite at a time (as if no one would notice) until there was nothing but a pile of toothpicks on the top of the dresser. It's the smell that puts me back into the room at 13 sitting in front of the vanity mirror trying on the wig that lived on the styrofoam head the summer I spent at my grandparents which turned out to be life altering in a number of ways (I met god in the mountains on a small cart pulled up into the hills by my grandfather riding his tractor for one thing). I'm not ready for that to dissipate but when I let go of the past the magic of my birthright will come with me, absorbed by osmosis and desire and delivered by my maternal ancestors.