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New Bed comes with Lumps

The rules of life often came to me as a child in homespun adages plucked from the Bible or Ben Franklin.

I was reared on phrases that could encourage or reprimand—time-honored words that held a weightiness greater than individual beliefs. They bore the wisdom of history and sages.

“Still waters run deep.” My mother would affirm in defense of my father’s taciturn manner.

“Every cloud has a silver lining,” I’d be reassured in times of disappointment.

Just as quick on the tongue might come a cautionary warning:

“Every mountain has a valley,” I’d be solemnly reminded in those recklessly giddy moments when the glee of achievement bubbled close to a boast.

And then, of course, there was the admonition delivered in terse tones:

“You’ve made your bed, now you have to lie in it.” The bed in this case was never comfortable. Never a bed of roses. One understood this was a lumpy bed at best.

In recent months that old reproach has inserted itself stubbornly into my thoughts as I try to make peace with a new bed that has disrupted sleep and tradition in my life.

For 40 years my husband and I made our bed beneath the scrolled oak flourishes of a six-foot-tall headboard that towered proudly over a double-bed frame—almost two feet higher than the bed was wide.

The bed was already old when we bought it--about the same time we bought our first house. In 1975 we both had jobs and felt settled enough to purchase a Dutch Colonial in a once-fashionable neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas. By the time we arrived, the prominent addresses had pushed east, away from the city center, leaving restoration opportunities for first-time buyers.

We refinished oak window frames and stripped layers of paint from kitchen cabinets. We furnished the rooms with sturdy Midwest oak pieces purchased at Wednesday-night auctions, and used furniture stores.

Weekends sent us on treasure hunts through small-town antique shops of Sedgwick County. The bed, we think, came from Dallas and Audrey who welcomed us to their antique store in rural Howard with financing options that suited young buyers.

Making a Kansas Bed in Oregon

When we returned to Oregon in 1978 we brought the bed, of course, along with a houseful of Kansas history. A sturdy oak sofa. A heavy dining room table with six chairs. Two towering wardrobes. An oak ice chest. Copper boilers and an antique coffee grinder.

The bed was still a double then. A few years later, a skilled acquaintance shaped a queen-size mattress mount that fit into the frame and brought the luxury of expanded space.

New mattresses came and went over the years. We moved from one house to another. The oak sofa was sold. Then the dining chairs. Through it all, the oak bed remained a constant connection to the early days of youthful optimism and expansive dreams with which we furnished our first home. It held us through good years and hard times.

But two months ago, we stripped the bed and moved the frame to the garage

A season of medical challenges had sent us into separate beds and we conceded it was time for a king-size mattress to accommodate two of us along with a cat and the pillows and sleep props that seem to multiply with age.

High time, you might think. But it hasn’t been as easy as we’d hoped. We shopped for a frame and for a mattress and awaited delivery eagerly. I selected an oak mission-style bed frame to blend with the Kansas wardrobe and chest of drawers that remain in use.

No sooner had the new bed and mattress been delivered than I bashed into the footboard, cutting a corner too short on furniture that now extended two feet into the bedroom beyond the previous piece. In the morning, I rose from the new mattress with a bruised leg and a stiff back.

Be patient, they urged me at the furniture store when I called to inquire about exchanging the frame. Give it time. Your body will learn to move around this new piece.

Be patient, we were counseled at the mattress store. Sleep on the mattress for at least a month before deciding it’s not right.

Patience worked in the case of the bedframe. Not so much with the mattress. The stiff back persisted. The cushion-top mattress felt lumpy, not luxurious.

All's Well that Ends Well

When I called after a month to consult sales associate Daisy Havens at The Mattress Company she offered a “comfort exchange.”

Yes, she said when I asked, in her experience old folks exchange mattresses more often than young buyers in the quest for satisfaction.

“I can’t give you a percentage but the comfort exchange is used frequently, and absolutely more in the elderly generation than younger,” she says. “Needs change as we get older. We have aches and ailments and when you buy for two people, not all people agree.”

Havens has spent ten years at the side of buyers young and old as they tackle the mattress conundrum. She’s been party to difficult and intimate decisions that emerge in the pursuit of a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes the challenge arises when couples need separate beds due to changes in sleep patterns or medical conditions. For couples who have spent much of their lives in a shared bed the change can bring sadness and loss.

On the flip side she witnesses the joy of late-in-life matches—couples filled with the youthful wonder of new love as they select a mattress to share.

“That’s definitely fun to watch,” says Havens. “They get a second chance and that’s fun to see late in life.”

As for my bed partner and me, a chance at making a bed we could sleep in without lumps or bumps came with time and a second mattress that seems to suit us both. Even the bedframe became less daunting once I broke a 40-year pattern and learned to take a wider path around the footboard in the dark.

“All’s well that ends well,” my forbears might conclude, with words that brush aside complications.

But I’m of a different mind. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Carolyn Kortge of Eugene is a former Register-Guard editor and writer.

Contact her at

Not the Retiring Type

by Carolyn Kortge

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