Her white hair was pulled so tightly away from her face and knotted on top of her head, stretching her wrinkled skin so that it morphed her face into something scary. Her high collared black dress disappeared into the colorless quilted cover that fell to the floor from her throne – the fourposter bed on which she lay against a mound of pillows. I stood there looking up at my grandmother, not moving. I was afraid. She looked like the witch I had seen in Snow White. This is the only memory of my father’s mother that I have stored. I’m not sure where those impressions are kept and what neurons are fired in my brain, but that is all I have saved. That one experience, that one moment in time, the snapshot saved of my father’s mother when I was four.
Maybe in reality she was not at all what I remember, but somehow a child’s eyes can be clairvoyant, more often than not. Stories I have heard since about my grandma fortify that perhaps I was able to see things as a four year old more clearly than the adults around me realized.
Seventy years later, my scary grandmother lives on through me in several ways. I have inherited the gene for her white hair and I also have her bed. My life has unfolded, year after year, while sleeping in the comfort of that big cherry fourposter. I have nursed three children, cried myself to sleep when I lost a husband, then my parents, and throughout many nights have kept my grandchildren safe from their ‘boogeyman dreams’ in my scary Grandma’s bed. And from the comfort of that old bed I have been blessed to have been awakened slowly by 15,330 beautiful Eastern sunrises popping over the New Jersey Shore hills.
My ancestors supposedly bought the German bed made of Kirscholz when they traveled from England to America. Large slats with high posts secured by substantial wooden screws hold the bed together, the horse hair mattress laid across the slats, provided them and the generations to follow, comfort fit for a king.*
I was told by my father that William Tecumseh Sherman, a relative of my great, great grandmother Sherman has slept in my bed. Whether this is true or not, I have no proof, but my father, a southerner, always called it “The Burning Bed,” referring to Sherman’s march through Atlanta. I have a suspicion that is why the valuable bed that my Ohio mother loved, in his eyes, was not so valuable to him and therefore, his Yankee daughter was more than welcome to it.
So I guess what it all comes down to is the eye of the beholder. My scary grandmother through the eyes of a four-year-old, maybe wasn’t so, so scary after all, but just very ill, and the ‘Burning Bed’ through the eyes of a southern gentleman was really just a beautiful work of German craftsmanship. In most things in life, it comes down to one’s interpretation. Our brain gathers the information, maps it, and then we interpret it in our own way because of prior impressions.
My son will get the poster bed this summer and it will begin a new life with another generation. Yankee based since 1949, she will travel to Nashville to live in a bedroom in a lovely plantation house in Confederate country. She will be loved and well taken care of. I think that will suit her just fine. General Sherman may roll over in his grave, but that is another story for another time.
* Horse hair mattresses priced in six figures last for years and years and are now owned by mainly royalty and billionaires.
Copyright 2014 Sandra Hart. All rights reserved.