A Lifetime of Beds; A Lifetime of Stories

In a box somewhere in one of my closets is a photo of two white cribs tied together with big bows: one for newborn me, the other for newborn twin Shelly. So the story goes, after we identical infants arrived home from the hospital, Shelly and I cried inconsolably until we were placed together in one crib, where we were happy.

We eventually learned to slumber alone in our own cribs. By the time I was 10 we lived in a two-bedroom old bungalow on Chestnut Street in Redding, where my three sisters and I transitioned to bunk beds. Shelly and I bunked in one bedroom, and our two younger sisters bunked in the remaining bedroom. Our mother slept in the living room on what, to most people, might look like a pair of twin beds pushed against the walls - daybed style - with fitted checked covers and matching bolster pillows. Our mother called them punees - a holdover from our time in Hawaii. Anybody's mother could sleep on a double bed in a bedroom. Our mother slept on groovy punees in the living room.

The bottom bunk was my bed of choice, because it gave access to the upper bed's support slats; places to stash my Nancy Drew collection and other precious stuff beneath the top bunk's mattress lining, stapled to its wood frame. Over time that lining sagged and hung like old mosquito netting.

I also liked the bottom bunk because it was cave-like and didn't require a climb to reach the top bed, which may have been the first time I realized I'm not crazy about high places. The down side of being on the bottom bunk was the top-bunk sister could dangle her arms and hands down from her bunk, and pretend she was a scary creature, complete with sound effects. "I'm a ghooost! I'M a ghost!" I know it sounds lame, but when you're 10, and it's dark, those dangling arms were terrifying.

By the time I was a senior in high school I'd graduated to a trundle bed, which, once again, I shared with my twin. No doubt about it, the stationary bed was the better choice. The movable trundle was such a hassle. When it was time to go to sleep, the under-bed person had to reach below the bed, grab the bar on the bed, yank the bed out, and engage the mechanism to make the bed pop up. Nine times out of 10 I'd just pull out the bed and leave it lowered, which rendered it not much more than a mattress on the floor.

I married just a year out of high school, and for the life of me I cannot remember where we got our first double bed, but we were poor students, so I'm guessing it was a second-hand bed from someone in the family.

By the time I was pregnant with our first child, we had a waterbed, an unfortunate '70s novelty whose invention probably had something to do with heavy drug use. Having a waterbed required we extend a garden hose to the ground below from our second floor apartment to fill the bed, which blows my mind now that anyone - especially insurance agents and property managers - would think those waterbeds a good idea.  I remember our first night in the apartment, before the water had a chance to heat, which resulted in a bone-chilling cold akin to a full-body brain freeze. As the pregnancy progressed, the sloshing, undulating waterbed was more like waterbedding torture, so I opted for sleeping on the floor.

doni and kids joe is newborn

And baby makes three kids. Mercy Medical Center, 1984.

By kids No. 2 and No. 3, we finally came to our senses and traded the water bed for a queen-sized normal bed. I now know these were some of the best years. This was the bed where newborns sometimes slept with us, not because we believed in The Family Bed, but because we were too exhausted and sleep-deprived to return the babies to their bassinets after their feeding and/or changing.

These were the years of toddlers finding their way into our bed after a nightmare, or to the edge of the bed in the middle of the night, where they'd utter the fateful words that were always followed by a quasi-liquid disaster and a night of washing sheets and pajamas.

Mom ... I don't feel good.

That marriage ended after 16 years, but I kept the bed until my next marriage, to a guy who wanted our own bed. Fair enough. Thirteen years later that marriage crashed and burned, so I fled, and left my heart and marriage No. 2 bed in Igo. My son and daughter-in-law gave me a queen-sized bed that my daughter-in-law's parents gave her after she graduated high school. That bed was a mourning bed during those heart-broken years. I often wondered why I didn't just get a twin bed, because after years of being married and sleeping on "my" side of the bed, out of habit, that's where I stayed, despite being alone. My side. The other side was a place to pile laundry and toss excess pillows.

airbnb master bedroom

Although that queen bed was already past its prime when I got it, it's what I've had for the last six years. And it's been fine. Until recently, when I hosted a couple of house guests who stayed in my room. The next morning, when I asked how they'd slept, the woman's words surprised me:

"Your bed is not comfy, especially for a couple."

What? Really?

That was it. For the first time in my life, I wanted  a new bed. My own bed. Just the one I wanted. No more second-hand beds for me.

I shopped local and sought expert mattress counsel from high-school buddy Pat Buckley at his family-owned Best Price Furniture and Mattress in Redding. It's the same place I bought my guestroom bed (which guests rave about, by the way).


It's where I also bought my current Airbnb sofa bed, and my favorite Ashley couch, which is powder blue with flowered pillows. In fact, if you're really sharp-eyed you can see one just like it in the right side of this Best Price Furniture and Mattress showroom photo.

Best Price furniture showroom

This time, I was on a mission for a brand-new queen-sized mattress set.

Pat insisted I try out the beds and actually lie down on each one, which felt silly, but I got over it. I went from bed to bed, flopping down and and resting on each one to see how each mattress felt beneath me. As I tried out the beds, Pat talked and shared a lot of mattress information, such as the fact that people like me - back-sleepers - have it made when it comes to finding a comfortable mattress, because our weight is evenly dispersed from our head to our feet. On the other hand, pity the side-sleepers, because they have a bit more of a challenge with bones poking from shoulders, hips and knees. Too-firm a mattress will be uncomfortable for the side-sleepers, much as a too-soft mattress will be a problem for stomach-sleepers.

Me? I like a firm mattress. And that's what I picked out. But not just any firm mattress. I got a Tension Ease Stress-Free Sleep orthopedic mattress that has a pocketed coil system with comfort layers.  mattress label

My old bed? I passed it onto a friend who needed a guest-room bed. I'm so dang strong now that I just dismantled the entire bed myself and hauled everything out to the living room to await its pick-up.

doni's old bed

Out with the old bed.

doni's new bed tension ease

In with the new bed.

It was Noni Doni's Wild Wednesday with the grandkids - ages 5 and 3 - the day Best Price delivered my new bed. After the bed was assembled and the Best Price delivery guys left, the kids climbed up on the bed and rolled around on it like a couple of excited puppies. They got busy doing snow angels on my new clean, mattress.

With enthusiasm, my grandson pitched his "great" idea: "I know! We can come over and sleep in your new bed with you! All of three of us! Come on! It will be fun!"

Hmm. Maybe. But not before I invest in a heavy-duty moisture-proof mattress pad to go with my bed's new sheets, pillow cases and bed skirt.

Until then, I'm enjoying my new, super-comfortable bed so much that I look forward to going to bed on it each night, where I sigh and fall into a deep, peaceful sleep.

Smack dab in the middle of my very own beautiful bed.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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19 Responses

  1. Hollyn Chase says:

    Thanks Doni,

    Wandering down your memory lane of beds was an invite for this  reader to wallow in a bit in her own bed nostalgia. (My young ones not only threw up in our bed, they crawled in with us and wet the bed. I hope water-proof mattress pads have improved–they were a bit “crunchy” a few decades ago.)

    And Best Price is the best! All four of our couches and our bed were purchased there.

  2. I laughed reading about your water bed – we had one, too. Utterly absurd – I think it was a piece of furniture we bought to shock our parents. 🙂

    Our in-laws bought us a regular old king-sized mattress and box spring when I was pregnant with our first child I was SO grateful.  We did have a Family Bed when the kids were young — wall-to-wall mattresses and futons across our bedroom floor. Then, when we added Joe, Craig built bunk beds for the older kids – all in our room. Craig used to joke that all the nighttime sleeping noises in our room put him in mind of sleeping on a circus train. Good memories.

  3. EasternCounty says:

    Ah, yes, the waterbed that leaked which required a handyman to come to pull up and dry the carpet.  Waterbeds were just one more thing that seemed like a great idea in theory, but in practice, ummm, not so much.

  4. Shelly Shively says:

    Well done, Doni.  Your story will certainly prompt readers to reflect on their bed histories.  I have that same picture (in a box of albums) of our end to end cribs festooned with bows.   Waterbeds of the 70’s & 80’s set our generation aside in an era when running a hose into the house, and sleeping on a giant bladder of water, seemed like a great idea.

    Poignant reminder of how one piece of furniture is an eloquent reminder of the circle of life.   We love, birth, share, are alone and more often, with home Hospice, find it to be the final place of life.

    I’m so glad you got your own quality bed: life is too short, for anything else.

    P.S.  sorry for scaring you from the top bunk ; )

  5. Darcie says:

    The ‘kids’ remember your water bed on Butte street!  They thought is was amazing (we got rid or ours before they were born).   Laura always loved your mamasan chair.  When she bought her first house she had to have one – just like Doni had.   Ah, the memories thanks for the trip back this morning.

  6. Joanne Lobeski-Snyder says:

    Thank you so much Doni for this article!  Here’s the best bed story I have.   I slept on the mattress on the floor  the whole time I was in college in L.A..   When I moved to Eureka to attend  Humboldt State University, I lived in the attic of a house  in Manila, and of course slept on the floor since I only had what I could carry in my car when I moved to the north state.  My landlord, bless him, gave me an old single size  cast iron bed with a mattress!  What a move up in the world!  That bed came with me to Redding (had to make a second trip to get it) and after I was married,  was passed on to a friend who loved it and eventually sold it and then saw it in an antique show several years later.

    I loved reading this article.  I’m ready for a new bed, so I’ll check out the links you provided.


  7. Ginny says:

    I remember my unofficially adopted grandson’s twin,  no bladder dividers, waterbed.  With my back, I would wake up, just slosh the bed around and fall back to sleep.  Never bought one of my own, though.  Hubby said no!

    The old Virginia Slim ad went kind of like this:  “You have come a long way, Baby!”  That is you through your progression of beds.  Enjoy your new for you bed!

  8. David M. Kerr says:

    A waterbed could have killed me.  The woman in the ground floor apartment beneath me drained her waterbed and left the heater on.  She was skipping out in the middle of the night because she was behind in rent.  Her apartment went up in flames.  Back in 1974 smoke detectors were not in common use.  A fireman pounding on my door woke me up in the middle of the night.


  9. Jorgi says:

    Loved your beds story, Doni. As for me, I grew up sleeping mainly on the couch (or couches) and not the kind that makes into a bed. I still enjoy taking a nap on a couch. Sometimes when I just can’t get to sleep, I’ll head for the couch. That eventually works.

  10. Terry Turner says:

    It’s a major positive step to have your very own bed, isn’t it?  Your fabulous article walked me down my own memory lane….thank you!

    And I’ve had fantastic luck with the “Queen Size Luna Premium Hypoallergenic Mattress Protector” that I bought from Amazon (couldn’t find it locally).  The top is like a soft terry cloth, and the moisture barrier is great – there have been several grandchild “diaper fails” over the years, and although I do have to wash the sheets and mattress protector itself, the mattress itself was dry as a bone.

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