Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

3-17-13 RMB Mattress Only Days
Happy St. Patrick’s Day Rita Mae Brown,
Not one to seek reasons to party, it is just an ordinary day for me, with the caveat that I did wear a forest green, baseball style t-shirt with the number 85 on it. I bought it from a thrift store because I liked the color and it is soft. Now that matters of importance have been aired...
I am enjoying the trials, tribulations and mischievous endeavors of Molly Bolt in Rubyfruit Jungle. My heart goes out to Molly in places, but even more so to a young Rite Mae whose path was so similar.
Where you wrote of Molly getting her first apartment in New York and dragging in an abandoned mattress, it took me back to our move to California after my parents split. My mother, sister & I ended up in 29 Palms. It was where I had been born seven years earlier during my father’s tour at the Marine Corps base. We returned to the house we lived in before, sans father and other siblings.
When we moved in, we had one queen sized mattress and that was the sum total of our furnishings in the big, empty house. It was placed in the center of the living room floor. The three of us slept there for a little while, maybe a couple of months, memory is fuzzy. On our first morning in the house, my sister and I trotted into the kitchen to get breakfast. Mom had bought groceries, including our favorite cereal. It was her treat to us.
We got out the cereal and the milk then stood barefoot and dumbfounded on the linoleum floor. We laughed and thought “Hm, now what?” It hadn’t occurred to anyone that we had no dishes. We had a mattress. No bowls, plates, cups, spoons, nothing we could fashion into a container for our cereal…but we had a mattress.
Starved as only a seven year old can get, I had the grand idea that we should pour the milk and cereal in the sink and eat it with our hands. The sink was where one washes dishes, so it must be clean. I thought it would be fun. My sister, Miss Prim and Proper herself, would not hear of it. Even at eleven she exhibited a certain manner. I would come to realize that she was then, and has been since, the most “adult” member of my entire family. She’s carries that cross well.
Alas elderly friends down the street, who we called Grandpa and Grandma, loaned us silverware and two plastic bowls, a brown one and a yellow one. My sister, always fond of brown, took that one to be her’s. Both bowls now reside in my cupboard. (Why brown??? I asked that too, something about earth tones she said)
A TV appeared, a gift from a friend. Someone gave us twin beds for the room we sisters shared. I guess the mattress went to mom’s room. A chair appeared in the living room. It was an early version of the recliner. It was all wood with two big cushions and levers that adjusted the back. It lives in my garage. Someday I will have it restored. It was our captain’s chair as my sister and I watched nightly Star Trek re-runs. She liked Checkov. I liked that she liked the show and it was time we could spend together.
Our first NEW furniture was a kitchen table and four chairs. The set wreaked of 1960’s, white table with white and bright yellow fake leather chairs. They swiveled, that was the best part.

By the time we had beds, a TV and dishes, I already missed the mattress only days. It was the closest the three of us ever were. Friends soon entered our lives. After school, I was out the door to go find lizards with the boy down the street. Sis would go to her friend’s house. Mom found someplace else she’d rather be each night.
There is an amazing element in making something from nothing. We did it. We made a new life. Molly Bolt did it. Rita Mae Brown did it, a few times.
It’s bittersweet to look back on having so little and know that we held so much. We held the future in our hands. We held a bond forged with those that lent assistance. We held hope.
Molly seemed to understand the ladder one climbs to their future. We three didn’t understand, but we knew we had each other. Together we faced sadness, loss and fear. We had each other like we had never had before and have never had since those mattress only days.
I wonder how much Rita Mae Brown understood, what got you through cold nights? Maybe your future was clearer to you than ours’ was to us. You made it through. You did it and you did it all on your own.

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