A history of beds

As a youngster, I often spent summer weeks at the farm home of my grandmother in southwest Georgia. It would only be the two of us, separated by long decades of life. We slept in the same bedroom on two spindle beds head to head just by an open window that faced the yard, the passing dirt road and, beyond that, a pasture that sloped down to a tree-lined creek a quarter of a mile away, more or less.

There was no air-conditioning, so we depended on the incoming breeze. We would talk a while before dozing away somewhere or another.

Often there were fireflies in the yard.

Decades later, long after my grandmother’s death, I slept on that same spindle bed in Houston. I do not remember how it got from Georgia to Texas, but it did and, after the divorce from my second wife, she sold the bed for some reason known only to her.

The first place I lived after being tossed unceremoniously out into the cold, unloving world, was a small apartment in a downtown Houston high-rise. I left the spindle bed behind and chose instead to use this bed that I had painted.

A happy bed for a sad time.

Painted by me.

The bed of many colors was a double, what we call a matrimonial in Mexico. While they are fairly common below the Rio Bravo, they are far less so up north. That was true even back then in the 1990s.

I left the small apartment after a few months, moving to a much larger place where I still slept in the bed of many colors. And after a year I moved into yet another apartment, and that was when I moved up to a queen bed, leaving the bed of many colors somewhere I do not now remember, but I do know that my daughter has it today in North Georgia unless she got rid of it too. Women do odd stuff.

Queen beds are more spacious than doubles, of course, and I enjoyed the extra room even though I rarely slept with company in that last Texas bed.

On arriving in Mexico, I spent seven months in the capital city in two very different beds. First was a lumpy twin in a room above a garage. The slats collapsed regularly, dumping me onto the floor. Then I moved into a sparsely furnished house that had a brand-new king, my first king ever. I slept like royalty.

Later, on moving to the mountaintop, I bought a double for the rental in which I lived alone for one and a half years. After marrying and moving into the Hacienda, I was back in a queen with my bride. Then, a few years later, we moved up in life and bought a king. That’s the situation today, but overnight guests sleep in the queen that now sits upstairs.

I suspect I’ll die in this king unless I’ve been hauled off to a hospital. I hope not.

Kings are the best, but they’re a bitch to make up in the morning.

17 thoughts on “A history of beds

  1. Now that is really a bed of many colors. I spent almost 40 years working in mining and exploration camps and slept on every kind and condition of bed, so now I can sleep just about anywhere. My lovely bride is more critical about mattresses. She has higher standards. It is nice to have a big king bed as I like no blankets, and she likes blankets, and more are better.

    Visiting my grandparents in the summers were good times, very simple times. Got to drink coffee when 7 or 8 in the early mornings with my grandfather. I think he got into trouble for giving me coffee, but he did anyways. Good times, good memories. Hadn’t thought of that in a long time.

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  2. I spent two summers with my grandmother and a cousin, all of us in the same room, with window open. I woke up to her coughing each morning. She assured me she was all right, that it was something old people did. I’m old now and know that it was not all right. She always wore black because her husband disappeared during WWII. A lot of people did. She died a few years later. The little house was demolished and a new one built on the property. Those were great summers. Many more followed for me, but those two were different — special.

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      1. It was in Hungary, a couple of years before we escaped. Grandma could not take both of us anymore, so she chose my cousin because his mother was a single mom. I went to summer day camp in Budapest next year. That was a lot of fun also, but not like the summers with grandma.

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  3. Your comments about the spool bed brought back memories for me too. When I was 7 or 8 we lived in a two-story, rented farmhouse. My brother and I shared one of the two upstairs bedrooms, and my older sister the other. The maple, 30″ spool bed, a family heirloom, was downstairs in the dining room. When we were sick, we had to sleep in the spool bed near the parents’ bedroom. It was a beautiful bed, but narrow and not very comfortable. It did have a cut-down set of springs, sitting on slats, and every once in a while a slat would fall out. The mattress was a thick cotton slab and a little lumpy. Unfortunately, I never had grandparents to enjoy. On my mother’s side, they were gone before I was born. On my father’s side they lived 2,000 miles away, back in Michigan. I can remember my dad flying back to his mother’s funeral in 1941. He flew out of Burbank’s Lockheed Terminal, the main airport for Los Angeles. It was covered with chicken wire woven with cloth strips of various colors to form camouflage nets. I think he flew on a DC-3, and had to stop in Kansas City to refuel. Those were the days. I, too, love that colorful bed. For some reason, it reminds me of a Frank Lloyd Wright design.

    P.S. For some reason, I vaguely remember the spool bed having a rope net instead of springs to support the mattress, before it got the modified springs.

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    1. Phil: That was interesting. Thanks. I wonder if anyone under the age of about 40 now would even know what a spool bed is. Or spindle bed. Same thing. Your spool bed very well could have had a rope net, I think. Beds in Mexico rarely have box springs. Most of us just lay the mattress on a wooden base. After living down here all these years, I gotta wonder what on earth good does a box spring do anyway? I’ve never missed them. I think they’re just a way for mattress companies to make more money.

      I had both sets of grandparents, which was good. One set lived about 150 miles away, and the others, about 300 miles away. We visited the closer ones far more often, my mother’s parents. My father did not much care for his parents. My mother, an only child, was joined at the hip with hers.

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  4. Today’s writing conceit is interesting. I never thought of composing a memoir centered on where I sleep. But why not? As you have proven, it is an effective device.

    I did not learn of the demise of the double bed until last month. My mother has slept on the same mattress where both Darrel and I were conceived. So, we suppose. My mother would never convey a detail like that. So, the mattress may have been nearing its 75th jubilee. I say “may have been” because the mattress was shot.

    Darrel and I convinced Mom a new mattress was in order. So, off we went to one of those huge mattress stores that trigger Socialists into insane rants about capitalism. It was there that we learned double (or “full” as they are now dubbed by the mattress Illuminati) mattresses have gone the way of bell-bottom jeans. But we finally found something suitable amongst the Classic Collection. I think that is marketing jargon for “stuff we have not yet sent to the dump.” It should be at her new apartment when I arrive there on Sunday.

    As for me, I am a king man, as well. Though for a single man, it affords far too much space for anything other than tossing.

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    1. Señor Cotton: Oh, one can write about anything with a modicum of imagination. I don’t recall how this topic entered my noodle a few days back, but it did.

      Good grief! Your mother’s mattress must have been in dreadful condition after all those decades. Gotta wonder how she’ll take to a new one. Comfortably, I hope. As I mentioned, even back in the 1990s, doubles/fulls were falling out of favor. Of all the large furniture pieces that I painted back then, this bed was the only one to never sell, and I am convinced it’s due to being a double, not queen or king.

      You’ve got a king? Way too much bother for a single guy. A real pain to make up, more than anything. I imagine you let the maid make it up, however. I would have bought a queen in your situation, but I know you like to go whole hog.

      Back to Oregon … again? Lordy. Bon voyage.

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  5. When I was five, my one and only grandmother had bedroom furniture custom-made for me: a tall chest of drawers, nightstand, and a four-poster double bed. Why she would do that for a 5-year-old is beyond me. My half-siblings would sleep on single beds until they left for college. My mother and stepfather had a king-sized bed until my mother cut that in half. My grandparents slept in twin beds at their primary residence and weekend house.

    But that four-poster bed was a good investment. I still sleep on it. Oh sure, I’ve wanted a platform bed, I’ve wanted a sleigh bed, but buying a replacement for something not worn out wouldn’t be prudent. There is a king-size bed in the spare bedroom, where Morgen the Doberman and I watch TV, but all of the fine bedding fits the matrimonial bed.

    I’ve never used box springs, always just a mattress atop a sheet of plywood over slats. And yes, I do replace the mattress every 15 years or so.

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    1. Ms. Shoes: Your granny had custom furniture made for a 5-year-old? Why am I not surprised? And your mother “cut” a king bed in half? Hmmm.

      You sleep on the same bed you slept on when you were 5 years old? Jeez, this just keeps getting weirder. When you say you’ve never used box springs, I assume you mean in Mexico. Box springs are routine in the United States.

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        1. Ms. Shoes: So you were a rebel at an early age. No surprise there.

          I always had box springs above the border simply because. Everyone had them. After my years down here, however, I see clearly how absolutely useless they are.

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  6. Both of my parents died at home. No need to go to hospital so no extreme measures to prolong life. Pain was.controlled and they slipped into the next dimension in their own digs. Crypt burial.

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