by Frances Edstrom
I overslept this morning. New mattress.
Like nearly everything else in our thirty-six-year-old marriage, this mattress is a far cry from our first one. It's king-size, has a pillow top, and if I were any shorter, I'd either need a stepstool or a flying leap to get into it. I feel like the girl in the Princess and the Pea.
As I luxuriated in the pillowy feel of our new pillow top, I tried to remember where our first mattress came from. I can only surmise that we got it where we got everything else we owned "” from John's parents' attic, or a garage sale. Wherever it came from, we sold it, along with all of our other meager possessions except for a dirt bike and black Lab, when we quit our jobs in Winona (he teaching at the Junior High, me as bookkeeper at Peerless Chain) and took off for Seattle, Washington, and graduate school.
We rented a furnished house, and didn't need to buy a mattress, but it was the seventies, and waterbeds were the new, in thing. One of John's fellow grad students, a guy named Marty, and his wife, Holly, were friends of ours. They told us about this great deal that we could get from a store near the U: two waterbed mattresses for $100. But of course they couldn't use two, and prevailed upon us to buy the other one. In hindsight, it was a stupid way to spend our money, but how did we know that I was about to lose my job.
So we bought the waterbeds. Marty and Holly decided they didn't need a bed frame, so just filled up the plastic bladder and let it sit on the floor of their second story bedroom in an old apartment near the U. John was into a "building things" phase (which has surfaced now and again throughout our marriage, but never really took hold) and had just finished an A-frame house for the dog. So, a bed frame would be a snap! It even came apart at the corners so we could transport it to wherever our lives would take us next.
The frame proved to be a smart move. Marty and Holly's mattress, succumbing to the laws of gravity and old crooked houses, by the end of the school year had migrated from the far corner of the bedroom to the top of the stairs, where it lay wedged like a whale in the Thames.
We came back to Minnesota, set up the waterbed again, and this time bought a heating pad that went under the mattress. We had a few leaks, like the time I forgot it was a waterbed and stuck a couple of diaper pins firmly into it.
We slept on it near Silo in an old rented farmhouse, moved it with us to Dacota Street, where we bought our first house, and from there to our ill-advised A-frame up on Pleasant Ridge. During this time, the heater gave out, and after I had begged and cried a little, we went downtown to Neptune Waterbeds and bought a new super-duper mattress, heater and frame from Linda Smit (now Lewis).
Then after a move to our present home, and three kids later, I had my first hip replacement, and we were forced to part ways with the waterbed and get a "conventional" mattress, king-size. One day I got a yen to rearrange our bedroom, and moved the bed with the help of my daughter. In the process, I threw my back out, and was ordered to spend more time in bed than I really wanted to. As I lay there all alone, immobilized by a pinched nerve, kids in school, John at work, I heard the front door open and close. (Nobody locked their doors until a neighbor was broken into and their Christmas presents stolen.)
"Oh, no!" I thought. "This isn't how I want to die! I wanted to go down fighting!"
"Yoo hoo," someone called. It didn't sound like the crazy killer.
And it wasn't. It was Grace Dahm Backus, our bird columnist, bringing me some books and a treat to make me feel better.
Now, three hip replacements later, even John thought the old mattress had lost its oomph. But purchasing decisions in our house take a long, long time. I was about ready to move to a different bedroom when we finally decided to buy.
There, the history of my mattresses. And with any luck, you won't have to read about them again for another ten years.