Warning: A long post follows… I do hope you’ll hang in because I have a question for all of you at the end. Thanks. -Sarah
The bed above is the only bed we have in our new, little house at the moment. It is a lovely bed, no? So lovely it presents a dilemma.
We moved from a three bedroom house to a three bedroom house. However, life here is different from life there and we simply cannot use three bedrooms in the same way we have been using three bedrooms (one room for us, one guest room, one office/guest room). Kev and I, in our bedroom in the old house, were sleeping on the bed I bought for seminary. A full, platform bed, just a mattress on a wooden frame. No headboard, no footboard- so… functional, and surprisingly comfortable, if aesthetically spare. In the office/guest room we had a twin bed that was built a long, long time ago for my little brother. Also, actually, surprisingly comfortable given the age of the mattress- and pretty cool because it had two deep drawers underneath that once held hoardes of He-Man figures and served well for all sorts of goodies from the first six years of our married lives (when unloading these drawers I dubbed one “the place were Christmas presents go to die”- presents we gave to each other, mind you, that got shuffled away rather than worked into daily life.) In the other guest room was the bed you see above. This is a bed that carries a story with it. So let me tell you the story.
I once visited a spry woman named Grace on a regular basis. I met Grace when she was 104 years old, in my first year of parish ministry, right after she had broken her hip (for the first time ever). Up to that point she had been living in an apartment in the very large home of her son and daughter-in-law for I don’t know how many years prior. But this broken hip opened up a season in which nursing home living made more sense. She did go home from the hospital to the new, smaller house of her son and daughter-in-law for a little while, but it was out in the country- well, just out of town, adjacent to the prettiest cemetary around- and unlike their old home which was next to the school presenting all sorts of fascinating traffic flowing by Grace’s window… she was terribly bored and preferred the nursing home where there would at least be people to watch.
Grace had profound hearing loss. She had a device from radio shack that allowed her to hear somewhat well- IF she used it. She was known to hide this device from various employees of the nursing home leading them to believe that communication with her was impossible. She’d smile pleasantly when you’d speak to her and she could not hear, but this isn’t too useful when you’re trying to serve someone or build a relationship. I had been told that Grace wasn’t a visitor, that she would not expect me to visit, she might not appreciate my visits, and that I shouldn’t be offended. I knew about the radio shack device having been there when family members used it. I knew where to find it. And Grace was always DELIGHTED to see me. Especially when she could hear me. I let several staff members in on the secret too- perhaps to her consternation, but… I wonder, truly, if her reclusive nature in prior years was more about hearing than personality.
In an hour’s visit with Grace we would travel a century of memories- one minute I’d hear a story from when she was four years old and then from when she was 80, and then of the parties from her young adult years. She was still crocheting and knitting up until about 106. One day I brought a crochet hook and some yarn and asked her to teach me. She must not have quite heard what I was asking because she kept saying “You have such an interesting approach. I’ve never seen anyone do it that way before.” To which I responded, repeatedly, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, GRACE! YOU’RE TEACHING ME!” She’d smile pleasantly and pat my hand. Perhaps this is a Zen way of teaching. I don’t know. I still don’t know how to crochet.
She divulged some deep secrets to me, and once, in a whisper, she spoke of her faith with the delight of a four year old upon being handed an ice cream cone. Perhaps you’d think that folks would speak of their faith with their pastors all the time. Maybe some do, but I found such moments, instead, to be rare gems. To respect her privacy I will say no more about the content of our conversations, but suffice it to say, in three years, I travelled a great distance with Grace though we never left her corner room.
So, at some point in her 106th year, a year before she died, she said to me one day, out of the blue, “I want to give you my bed.” I knew she wasn’t referring to her nursing home bed. I could imagine she was referring to some lovely piece from her prior living arrangement. But I knew that accepting extravagant gifts from parishioners was something to be cautious about. I knew that she had lots of family who may well have intentions for that bed. And I had a bed- remember that functional, fairly comfortable platform bed I bought for seminary? So I said “Grace, that’s sweet of you. But I have a bed.” The conversation went back and forth for awhile with her persistently offering and me persistently (and graciously) resisting, until finally she became exasperated with me and said “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU???? DON’T YOU WANT AN ANTIQUE, FOUR-POSTER BED?” “Of course, I’d want it, Grace, but you have family and that is something you might want to leave to them.” “IT IS MY BED AND I WILL GIVE IT TO WHOMEVER I WANT.” So then I dropped the subject.
At EVERY visit that followed she’d ask “Do you have my bed yet?” To which I’d respond “No, Grace, not yet. But that’s o.k..” “IT IS NOT O.K..”
I had no intention of bringing this up to her son and daughter-in-law. I had a sense from many a conversation I had had with all involved, that an axe was being ground here and I didn’t want to get in the middle. I also had a sense that they may well be SLEEPING in that bed. Once while making a pastoral visit to them, we passed an open door and the daughter-in-law said “There’s your bed.” I sucked in my breath and then said, “Oh, really, that’s not necessary. You can tell her you gave it to me.” “OH NO,” she said with a chuckle, “Mother has spoken. Once I finish recovering from this surgery, it is YOUR bed.” I dropped it. A few months later, the bed was delivered.
It is a beautiful bed. The mattress and box spring on it were very old. But as we were primarily using the old bed, just more comfortable and easier to get upstairs where we settled after the gorgeous new bathroom was finished, it served as a lovely guest room piece- and good place to get away to when one or the other of us was snoring (Kev) or hogging the bed (me).
But when it came time to move and we knew we needed one of the small bedrooms for an office for me as I will no longer have a church office and one of the small bedrooms for a nursery, we needed to downsize. After much hemming and hawing, we decided to return the twin bed to my hometown where it is waiting in my parent’s garage until it can be moved into my parent’s attic until such time as my brother wants it back. We decided to give away the platform frame to workout buddy’s oldest son who is six foot some tall and was sleeping on a twin bed. We decided to bring only Grace’s bed, but to swap out it’s old mattress for my relatively newer (though still, almost a decade old) mattress, give the old mattress to the tall teenager or throw it out, whatever worked, and bring just antique frame, box spring, and less used mattress.
Sounds like there’s no dilemma, right?
Well, in the last two months we have discovered that we need a bigger bed. I actually pushed Kevin out of bed one of the last nights we spent in our old platform bed. We have been better about sharing space since I have become more disciplined about sleeping on my side as I’m supposed to and have typically created a wall of pillows to keep me in that position, but still… when I’m eight months along, a full bed isn’t going to cut it. And my sister has said, repeatedly, that we’ll want more space so the baby can be in bed with us occasionally at least.
So yesterday we ordered a king sized bed. Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but we spent several nights in king sized beds on our journey down here and… well… it feels right. And we found a pretty good deal. A queen is not that much bigger than a full and… we can fit a king… so… why not?
Which presents the dilemma.
We cannot sell Grace’s bed. It was a lovely gift given to me by a woman I want to always remember. She died while I was away one summer and donated her body to science. Her family said they’d have a service when her body came back and, as far as I know, they never did. Or if they did, they didn’t include me. I wasn’t offended, but I was sad as I never felt I said goodbye.
We can’t fit this bed in the nursery. It would take up most of the space. We can’t fit it in the office. We’re looking for a flip sofa, or futon, or something so we have some semblance of a guest bed that is a functional piece of furniture for the office the rest of the time. We’re certainly not going to put the bed in the great room nor in the bathrooms or kitchen. And that exhausts our space. There is no basement. No garage. And the attic is a crawl space of as-of-yet undetermined value for storage.
We can store the bed in the to-be-nursery for a little while, until we need to start making it a nursery and we need to move it out of here. And it just doesn’t make sense to pay for a storage unit when we may well be here, with no space for it, for six years. Are you seeing the dilemma?
So this is the thought as of yesterday… would any of you like to make use of a lovely, antique, four-poster bed for, possibly, the next six years, maybe less time, maybe more? Perhaps you could swap out a guest bed that is less lovely, or perhaps you need a guest bed. Or maybe you want such a bed for full time use. You will likely want a new mattress set if you plan to use the bed regularly, and of course, if you invested in such a set, it would be yours. But… someday… we would borrow the frame back. Anyone interested??? We’ll figure out the practicalities of getting it to you wherever you are, when the time comes, but e-mail me at morecowsthanpeople at gmail dot com if you’re interested, or leave a comment here. I do hope we can find a good, temporary (though perhaps long-term temp) home for this special bed.