This Is Us

Beds

A lifetime of memories in and about the place where we rest our heads

The author at 5 years old, modeling a waterbed.

In bed we laugh, in bed we cry;
And, born in bed, in bed we die.
The near approach a bed may show
Of human bliss to human woe.
—Isaac de Benserade

When I was little, I was so afraid of the dark that I begged my sister to let me sleep on her floor. I didn’t care that it was a hard surface, as long as I wasn’t alone.

Now I’m not afraid of the dark, but I’m very picky about my mattresses. Oh, how we grow and change and choose different things to fear.

“One little blanky for baby, two little blankies for baby, three little blankies for baby…. and now she is asleep,” was the lullaby my dad sang to me as a kid while tucking me in at night. I loved his made-up song, but snidely pointed out I was never actually asleep when he sang the last line.

My first job was modeling a waterbed.

At five years old, I pretended to sleep while photographers surrounded me oohing, aahing, and exclaiming, “She’s sooooo cute!” I thought, If this is showbiz, sign me up!

And just like that, I made my bed: a lifetime of pretending to sleep with very little recognition. (Apparently, you can’t fake-sleep your way to the top.)

I had two twin beds growing up, which was good for sleepovers, but also convenient when my mom let my 16-year-old boyfriend spend the night. Occasionally, she asked my older sister to “check” on us. We’d quickly stop making out and I’d jump from one bed to the next, feigning sleep and innocence.

At 22, I moved in with my NYC rockstar boyfriend and insisted we buy a bunkbed (proof I was too young to move in). He humored me and we bought a cheap, plastic rickety one from IKEA. I stuck it in my closet-sized room, tossed my clothes on it, and never slept there unless we were having a fight. (So much for big-girl dreams.)

The last guy I dated had a very soft mattress which made it quite clear when someone had been on it. “Who else has been sleeping in your bed?” I asked. “Too many to count” would have been his answer, had he been honest. I looked at his neck pillow thinking, this guy is too old for these antics, and ended that Little Red Riding Hood story.

I recently went through three mattresses. The first was too soft, the second was an online purchase (never do that), and the third… well, it was just right. Hallelujah!

Actually, it’s a little on the high side because I have to jump to get onto it, but that’s what I feel I deserve now: a bed I can barely attain.

I was just getting used to jumping onto my new, very high, very firm, very adult bed, when my mom called, “Dad’s in the ICU and he wants to stop treatment.”

I got on the first plane I could, rushed to the hospital, and asked him, “What do you want to do?” “Go home,” he said from his hospital bed.

Home he came. To the bed he knows, facing the window where the light streams in. The room on whose walls hang photos of his daughters, his wife, his grandchildren — and a quilt his sister handcrafted displaying all of his life achievements.

I sat by his side for hours playing every song I could think of. “Alexa… play ‘Our House’ by Crosby Stills & Nash… play ‘That’s Life’ by Frank Sinatra... Alexa… play ‘Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto’ …play ‘Not Dark Yet’ by Bob Dylan… play ‘Harvest’ by Neil Young… play ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ by Ella Fitzgerald… play ‘Kokomo’ by The Beach Boys!”

“Thank you,” he said.

“For what?”

“Holding my hand.”

When his soul took off, they carried away his body too, and all that remained was his bed, the two special thera-pillows my sister bought him, and the sheepskin blanket I sent that was so soft, he called it a glorious blanket.

That night, I curled up beside his empty bed and sang quietly,

“One little blanky for baby, two little blankies for baby, three little blankies for baby…

Oh where….

Oh where…

Did you go?”

Then I fell fast asleep on his floor.

Comedian of all trades.

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