The old oak bed is part of my family history. It is part of a bedroom set that was my grandparents’ first pieces of furniture when they married in 1914, in Athens, Tennessee. My mother and her siblings were all born at home in the bed, unheard of in this day and age. It road the waves of The Great Depression, world wars, tough times and good times.
My earliest memories of the bed were seeing it in pieces in my Aunt Sara’s home. It had been painted a creamy white, as was in vogue back in the day, and the tall headboard and scrolled footboard were fascinating to me as a young child. Aunt Sara was the oldest sister, the matriarch of the Schultz family after my grandparents died, and she decided that the bed would go to my mom. It sat in pieces in the spare bedroom for quite a while until Mom decided to have it refinished. When it came back it was transformed, rich with the beautiful colors and grains of the oak, its carving and details now more prominent.
Mom told me the bedroom set would be mine, under the condition that I “grew up right” (she held this over my head on several occasions, not that it was necessary…I was Mary Poppins incarnate as a child). The bed had a lumpy old mattress that rested on an old , squeaky coiled spring set that was all metal, and it was so tall I felt like I had to leap up into the bed to go to sleep at night. I loved it. I felt like a princess sleeping up so high in this wonderful old bed, and the lumpy mattress seemed to fit me just fine, especially curled up under quilts that had been made by my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
So many memories come to mind when I see the bed in my guest room, and especially on the rare occasion that I sleep in it when I am ill or come in very late from playing a concert. I feel enveloped in the arms of my family, visualizing the bed lit by firelight on a cold Tennessee night, a doctor spanking a newborn to make it take its first breath of air. I see my grandparents getting up at the crack of dawn to do chores and start their day. I see my mom and her siblings curled up in the bed on a stormy night, being comforted by my grandmother.
I also have my own memories, having slept in the bed from the time when I was a young girl until I got married. I remember sleepovers with my girlfriends, staying up until late in the night giggling and whispering. I remember Mom sitting on the edge of the bed telling me bedtime stories about when she was a little girl, and saying prayers with me…”Now I lay me down to sleep…” I remember anxious nights before a new school year began, and the wonderful feeling of being home when I would visit for holidays during my undergraduate years, and laying awake all night long before my wedding day.
I am thankful for this tangible part of my history. I don’t have a child to leave the bed to when I am gone, but I will make sure it goes to one of my nieces or nephews who would appreciate its place in their history. And I will share the stories of the bed with them, so that they, too, can feel wrapped in the love of those who came before them.