& an essay on beds and memories by Tamzin Merivale
I just made my bed in the albergue I am staying in on day 33 of the Camino de Santiago. I’m walking it with my brother who left home when I was six. The bunks in this beautiful home away from home are sturdy and I anticipate a good night of sleep. My chemo regime doesn’t allow my lungs to enjoy the mountain climbs here so here we are, 86 miles from the finish having taken a ride this morning to this paradise. I am sinking fast into the stone walls and sound of large flies, birds and creation heaving. I said I was coming here to walk and rest and walk and rest and we have done just that. My brother has been filling in many holes of our upbringings, some bringing me to tears, some confirming my patchy memories. He moved to New Zealand when he was about 20 and in the fifty four years since he left home we figured we have spent maybe 3 months together made up of pieces and days, usually around illness or death.
Suleika made a comment about bringing a journal and I have done so, doing a painting a day, it has been transformative, healing, exceptional, including the day I left a page blank because a man in the bunk room next to us just didn’t wake up. He died on a bottom bunk, in the middle of northern Spain, his wife shouting “no,no,no.” If I died tonight, I hope the only “no” being shouted would be that I was in the know, that I had done this incredible journey with my long lost brother, the black sheep, that I had risen above the fray of leukemia into a new place. I will sleep well.
Thank you so much for featuring my essay, such a pleasure to see it here ❤️ huge thanks to Suleika, Carmen and Holly!
I have always loved the enveloping comfort of a bed full of frsh soft linan drenched with soft pillows and a fluffy comforter. But the most hellish place on earth was the bed of my dying 30 year marriage. He moved into the guest room. I spent night after night buried in thost pillows, curled up i a comforter that could not comfort, praying for a return to love and security. I felt like a wounded animal huddled flor protection that I could not find.
I woke up today in a a bed full of pillows and comforters, welcomed by n fluffy puppy. It took years to find serenity, but I have learned that it is not what is in the bed but what you brig to your rest that gives you peace.
Good morning and Happy Mother's Day to all of you sweet mamas out there <3 I love today's prompt, I often wake up and think I am sleeping in another bed from another time in my life. My memories of beds is strong, I can remember my own bed as far back as age five. We lived in the Helderberg Escarpment (mountains) of upstate NY. I slept in a large bed, not a twin size, and my room was vast and empty, with a large hand-braided rug in the middle where I played with my blocks and Lincoln logs. We moved a good number of times, the next bed in a bedroom in Connecticut, then Long Island. I believe it was the same bed; soft, warm and inviting. The homes we lived in were older, with poor heating systems and the upstairs bedrooms were always cold so my bed was a warm nest. I would pull my school clothes into bed with me and get dressed under the covers. My bed was a reading cozy, a fort and a dreaming place, always with open windows and trees outside. Once I moved away from home, my beds changed a great deal, depending on where I was. My most uncomfortable bed was a twin box spring. My roommate and I were given a twin bed to share from a friend and I gave her the top mattress while I took the box spring. I remember so clearly sharing this twin box spring with my boyfriend at the time, who was over 6 feet tall, and not a small man. In those days, I could fall into any bed with a lover and sleep peacefully entwined all night long! When I moved back closer to home, I dragged my adolescent full size bed with me from apartment to apartment, same bed, different view. When I finally got married at age 28, we bought a queen size bed. The most significant memory in this bed was the birth of my 2nd daughter, Liana. I gave birth around 11 pm and our midwife tucked us all in fresh, white, clean sheets, mommy, daddy and baby, and said good night. It was wonderful to wake up to a new little one, at home, all of us comfy cozy gazing out at the new day through the large picture window in our bedroom. The bed my wife and I share now is the nicest bed I've ever owned, dangerously luxurious, perfectly firm and yielding for our aching backs, shoulder, hips and knees! There is a view of nature, as always, birds singing and tree frogs peeping. If I were to wish for one last bed in my lifetime, I would drag this one with me (and my wife, too) closer to the ocean where we could smell the salt air, fall asleep and wake up to the sound of ocean waves on the shoreline.
BEDS: wow what a great subject: I'm laying here in Denver at 5:00 in the morning thinking of all the beds I have slept in, mostly the couches in the living room for the TV has been my sleeping buddy for so many years. The bed i am concentrating on now at this time of my life is the bed i sleep well in but have a difficult time getting out of during the night and in the morning because of pain in my legs. My son is picking me up for brunch at 10:30 for mother's day , and i'm beginning the ritual of taking a pill, eating a bedside bite of banana as to not get sick, drinking a sip of water , massaging my legs, hopping with my cane on the floor until I can walk. So here's hoping that wherever we all are at every phase of our lives that we can sleep well on whatever bed we have and that we are able to get up in the morning and be thankful that we can get out of it and walk.
My comment is in response to Suleika’s reflection on mothering, which brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of the things my mother did, which I remember to this day (I’m 69 and my mother died when I was 10). Putting wildflowers in tiny cordial glasses around the house, allowing us to eat chocolate pudding out of fancy crystal champagne ‘coupes’, the rite of spring cleaning and putting bright slipcovers on furniture to brighten the house, making hot cocoa in the winter as part of our afterschool ritual, and listening to the deep things I would think and talk about. After her death, I was fortunate to find women in my life who stepped in to fill the void resulting from being without a mother. Aunt Evelyn took me shopping to buy my first bra. Aunt Helene let me come and stay whenever I asked so as to have time with my cousin Wendy. My summer camp counselors patiently helped me get through homesickness. After my father died (when I was 16), other women stepped in to offer a haven, a lifeline, compassion, and love. This collective of mothering women, plus my memories of own mother, have shaped me as a mother. Raising my children in Tunisia (my husband is Tunisian), I always did the small– like putting wildflowers in cordial glasses and the big– like listening to the deep thoughts my own two children wanted to share. I made our home warm and welcoming for all the children in the neighborhood. When I go back to Tunis and run into those children who have now become adults, they remind me when they would come over to decorate gingerbread cookies at Christmas and help to decorate our Christmas tree. When I moved to Yemen (after a 30-year career as a teacher – 23 in Tunisia) in a career change, and my son came to visit, he commented on my ability to make our new house a home. After moving to Jordan and then back to the U.S. after 32-years away, both my children commented, “We realize that home is wherever we are together.” I’m not really sure what my central message is, to be honest, except to say that today’s reflection on mother's day made me think about my mother, the mother figures in my life and my own efforts as a mother.
I don't remember a bed until after my mother was gone. Irene came to stay, and I got a Hollywood bed and a permanent wave (even though I have curly hair. It felt great to be recognized. Maybe I remember a bed from Girl Scouts camp where I learned to make hospital corners. I love my bed, and it symbolizes a life that I have created and done my best-I think that Hollywood bed (head board) gave me hope- and I had already learned for me that their would be no free rides, conventional holiday's and acknowledgments as such.
This brought to mind a “bed” I’d not thought of for 50+ years. A bed of sand on the beach in Ashkelon/Ashqelon (Israel). Rescued by strangers when a sandstorm, a khamsin roared in. Can’t remember the bed actually slept in, nor the rescuers. But for the prompt the entire moment may have remained buried beneath the years and the sand and the distance.
A home away from ritual: As a travel nurse, I slip into other’s homes every few months. The black and white car prints or stormy watercolor prints that decorate the walls would not necessarily be what I would choose so I bring small picture frames with two of the most important women in my life: my sister and best friend and sit them on a window ledge. The comforter is not always that comforting so I bring a soft, mauve blanket--a gift from my mother. The knicknacks look like they were purchased without meaning or there simply aren’t any knicknacks so I bring a pink, child’s toy narwhal that my parents bought me for my 27th Christmas as a gag gift. Her name is Rachael. I buy flowers and put them in a travel mug or if I’m lucky --a vase if they have it. I light a candle and call it home.
Suleika, what a beautiful reflection on home and on mothering. I found your insights on mothering in the way we nurture and care for those we love particularly moving as a woman dealing with miscarriage and infertility.
Whenever I’m in a new place, to make it feel more homey, I like to unpack immediately and have our books and clothes and items all laid out so we’re surrounded my familiar objects.
On the topic of beds, there’s nothing like the joy of sliding into your own freshly laundered sheets next to the person you love!
Many years ago, I spent three months in Chile, paddling my sea kayak and camping on islands. I had a tiny bottle, and I would pick flowers at each campsite to make it home.
One bed that comes to mind is a grassy hill at the University of Michigan I used to take naps on after dinner. I was there for a seven week debate camp just before my last year of high school, and it’s the last time I remember lying on the ground, without any worry about what was going on in the world, fully enjoying the present moment. I think about those days with fondness. How naive and yet how beautiful it was for me to have that relationship with the world. The pandemic ruined that for a period, but I’m starting to build it
French-Canadian, Lebanese-Canadian, raised in the U.S. and India. Where are you from never brings a short answer. The physical places I call home - those four walls - have always taken on a lot of importance even as they’ve changed a lot over the years. One constant has been the carpets. From a small childhood carpet squeezed into my college dorm, to the extra carpet or two given by my dad for my tiny first apartments and years abroad in France and UK, to finally an apartment big enough that we had to buy new carpets. Yet this still was a family affair involving WhatsApp with our carpet walla from twenty years ago in Kashmir. Home is NYC on any day of the year, it’s Quebec on xc skis in a snowstorm, it’s my parents kitchen in Washington DC. Home is where family is and where I am. Home is where the carpets are.
Write about all the beds you’ve ever slept in—the beds that felt like home, those that felt like hell, the beds you can barely remember and those you’ll never forget. What memories float up? How did you feel in different beds? And what beds do you hope to sleep in one day?
First off, Suleika, your Mom is beautiful. I see you in her. She was an artist, I take it. And a loving Mother. Thanks for sharing your Mother’s Day story.
Now, on to beds, a topic I have never thought I would write about. Where to begin?
I suppose I could start with my crib. I remember feeling imprisoned by it – of course I did not think of this word to describe it at the time. So, I took it apart. Some how I managed to take out the slats and slip out, lowering myself to the floor. My parents were not at all pleased. I can’t imagine how I did that.
Jump forward 18 years. I had two types of beds in the military. The first was the lower bunk of a two bunk bed set up. Rock hard mattress. Perfectly folded blanket, a spare blanket for cold days. Every morning, this bed had to be made to perfection. The other was a sleeping bag. We would lay out a rolled foam mat, or, sleeping pad to separate the ground from the bag which was like a cocoon. Once inside and warmed up, you did not want to get out. Once in a while I would find a scorpion in the bag, likely seeking warmth as well.
After the service, I could not afford furniture for my apartment, so, I slept on the floor in an orange-colored sleeping bag. Worked for me. Friends were somewhat appalled. Ha! They should have given it a try.
The bed that my wife and I bought after we were married is now in my daughter’s room (she left the nest quite some time ago). The mattress had lost its spring. But it was a luxury compared to the sleeping-on-the-floor arrangement. For 34 years, Mary and I shared that bed.
The last bed I bought was for Mary when her cancer made it difficult for her to breath. The head of the bed could be raised at an angle to help her breath. I remember the night it was delivered. I had already moved our older bed upstairs into my daughter’s room. The delivery guys helped me set it up. That night, Mary slept in the new bed able to breath a bit easier. She died the next morning. She slept in it for one night.
As far as I can recall, all the other beds besides these were pretty boring.
Not about beds (yet - working on that), but about home
Running away from home
Home away from home
Home, home on the range
Far from home
Home again, home again
Home, sweet home
Home for good
Home to stay
At home in my skin
What a great prompt! I absolutely loved Tamzin’s take on it! Her writing always makes me stop, think and escape the chaos around me for a bit. I’ve been a fan of her work for a while. So lovely to see her talent being recognised in this space too!