I've ditched chairs with no regrets. I once separated from a wool rug just because I wanted to see something else. And when a vintage dinette set -- so charming during our first five years together -- began to bore me, I threw it in the back of the station wagon, drove out to a charitable donation center and left it without so much as a backward glance.
So why was I struggling with the idea of tossing our old four-poster bed?
It's not like it was a family heirloom, or an antique, or even particularly good quality. I bought it some 20 years earlier on deep discount at a nondescript furniture store. My husband wanted me to take it back. I refused. It wasn't because I was so madly in love with this particular bed but because I was tired of sleeping on a mattress on the floor like aging college roommates. I was also tired of shopping for a bed as we had done countless weekends for more than two years without a purchase. Honestly, more than two years. We were the worst combination of consumers; persnickety about design and rather vague on money. I think furniture sales people hid in back rooms when we showed up.
Our bedlessness had become a nightly reminder of our inability to make a joint financial decision and, I feared, symbolic of something seriously wrong with our relationship. Our marriage was relatively new, and I was just beginning to recognize how my husband's tendency to passively avoid deciding things was a kind of decision in itself, the kind that could result in sleeping on the floor for the next 40 years.
So one day, I left work early, went alone to a furniture store and simply bought a bed. I paid extra to have same-day delivery and assembly. The workmen carried the bed upstairs without banging any walls and had it set up in no time. Usually, they said, lifting the mattress and box spring into place wasn't part of the deal. But they obliged because I was so obviously pregnant.
When my husband came home that night, he took one look at the bed and pronounced it ugly and all wrong for our 1930s-era house. I agreed.
"Help me make the bed," I said.
And he did.
Our first baby slept in that bed with us longer than accepted pediatric recommendation of the times. She sat up with stacks of picture books transforming the duvet into her personal library table. In sleep, she positioned herself like an oversized starfish, arms and legs stretched as if trying to touch all four corners of the bed.
Our second daughter loved cuddling in her parents' big bed but preferred her crib at night where she would settle on her stomach and smooth the sheets with chubby palms until sleep overtook her.
Both girls, inspired by stories of adorably bad monkeys, held hands and jumped on our bed until the wood slats loosened and dropped, and the mattress collapsed to the floor with a thud.
They were very apologetic. To the bed.
Each Mother's Day, the bed became a kind of messy breakfast room of burnt toast crumbs and weak tea because coffee was too complicated. The girls picked flowers from the garden to prop in a vase on the nightstand beside the bed. If even the teensiest tiny spider hitched a ride on one of the yellow daffodils, the youngest girl screamed a tarantula-worthy alarm.
When the older girl was home sniffly sick from school, she preferred to languish propped up in our bed with a box of Kleenix and a TV remote. In the afternoon, her younger sister rushed home to join her older sibling under the covers and tell tales from the classroom, fearless of germs and contagions.
The next week, their roles were reversed.
In their early teens, with hormones raging and the unfairness of the world weighing heavily on tender hearts, my daughters found their private times to perch on their mother's bed in the dark to talk and cry. And then there were times when doors slammed and only their own beds offered solace.
Now that both girls are grown, my husband and I thought it time to spruce up the house, paint the living room and get a new runner for the stairs. We've searched online, paged through shelter magazines and wandered through furniture stores. We're still looking for the perfect bed. And now that seems symbolic of everything that is seriously good about our marriage.
Vivian McInerny is managing editor of Oregon Home Magazine. This essay first ran in My Daily. Her articles have appeared in daily newspapers and print magazines nationwide. Read her blog on Red Room.