I have a dream of offering elegant hospitality to those of my friends and relatives who would like to visit Lambertville. The dream involves a guest room to rival the best hotels, a guest room worthy of Martha Stewart.
It’s not quite there yet.
Our guests stay in the attic. It is, at least, air-conditioned. The guest bed is a charming old piece we bought from a local antique dealer who has since died. We have lived in this house for thirty-two years, and all this time I have had shifting visions of what the attic, a finished room bigger than any other room in the house, might become. It was a sewing room. It was a writing room. Once the bed moved up there it was a bedroom, first for our son, who didn’t like it and moved back downstairs, and then for my grandson. My rowdy grandson jumped on the bed and broke the bed slats, which weren’t all that sturdy to begin with, so Harold replaced them with a stout piece of plywood. Thicknesses of foam rubber did for a mattress, held together with a mattress cover.
And now it’s a guest room, in the corners of which reside thirty-two years worth of stuff.
I don’t like that, but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it other than to go up there from time to time and throw out whatever of the stuff I can bear to part with. The boxes under the bed contain our son’s stuff, and I can’t throw that out because it isn’t mine to throw. Meanwhile he lives on the West Coast. The stuff on the shelves under the window consists of dressmaking supplies. I’m not sure I’ll ever get back into that. Then there’s a veritable wall of musical instruments in cases. It would be wrong to jettison a musical instrument. And the toys! But they are for the children to play with when they come to our New Year’s Eve party.
What to get rid of? The fake mattress made from layers of foam. After all these years it’s ratty, disgusting, offensive. That could go.
And in fact it went. We have an annual tradition in Lambertville called Sparkle Week, wherein the residents are encouraged to put unwanted items on the curb, first for scavengers to pick up if they see anything they want and then for the city to take away. I measured the bed and found that it was just the right size for a double bed futon mattress, an item that can be ordered online, an item that comes all squished down and only inflates to its full size when you remove the wrapping and expose it to the air. Splendid, I thought. Out with the foam, in with the futon mattress. There will be a short period after Sparkle Week when the plywood is all bare, but we aren’t expecting sleepover company until August. I put the foam on the curb and placed my order.
No sooner had I done this than I received an e-mail from my niece. It was as horrifying as those fake ones you get from your hacked friends saying the family took an unannounced vacation in some foreign country and was mugged in the hotel parking lot, please send money. Except that my niece and her husband didn’t need money, only sympathy and moral support. It seems a moving van carrying all their worldly goods from D. C. to California caught fire inexplicably in Alabama, and the moving company sent the cinders to New Jersey, where they were forced to come and see if anything could be saved.
Well, of course I had to invite them to come and stay. What would you do? Really. Only after I had pressed “send” did I remember that there was no mattress on the guest bed.
By the grace of God and the United Parcel Service the mattress arrived yesterday afternoon, just in the nick of time. Harold struggled the thing up to the third floor with the aid of a hand truck he borrowed from the library and we unwrapped it and laid it on the bed. Hurrah! It just fit. A label that came with it explained that it wouldn’t reach its full thickness for forty-eight hours after it was unwrapped, although it could be slept on.
I stretched out on the thing and found it to be something of a rock pile. But it’s still inflating. Even now my niece and her husband are lying on it fast asleep, oblivious to the soft hiss while the mattress grows plumper and plumper underneath them. By the time they wake up it might almost be comfortable. If it isn’t, I can get another layer of foam.