Monday, March 2, 2009

Sleeping on a Cloud


I don't much care what bed I sleep in now—what it looks like, I mean—so long as it's reasonably comfortable and no one nearby is snoring. When I was little, though, I wanted a bed that was interesting, beautiful, and of course one that invited bouncing or some other manner of play. Better yet if the bed could accommodate friends, double as a girls' clubhouse of sorts, like the cheerfully painted bunks in Chicago or the full sized (double bed) canopy in Los Angeles. This post is about the canopy. I have been racking my brain trying to come up with the name of the tiny store in Brentwood (on San Vicente Boulevard, I think) where the bed was purchased. No such luck. A man owned the store, and it specialized in antique and reproduction (or all antique? all reproduction?) iron beds. The store sold beautiful hand-crafted quilts as well. When we moved to Los Angeles and I was allowed to guide the decor of my room and the furniture in it, I chose a dusty blue wallpaper that featured a repeating pattern of tiny flower sprays, more like sprigs. There were not many contrast colors—the flower sprigs featured tiny dabs of cream or white, a little pale orange, perhaps a pinpoint of pink and some green for leaves. An antique wing-back chair that had been in our family a little while (previously upholstered in a satiny cream and olive green ornamented stripe) was re-covered in a powder blue plush material, soft like a velvet though I'm pretty sure it wasn't. I remember also that the chair had a serpentine, "rick-rack" kind of cording to finish off the upholstery. But the big, square canopy bed upstaged everything. On the bed was a quilt, from the store-that-shall-remain-nameless. It was a fan-patterned quilt, with variations on the light blue theme to compliment the wallpaper. At the intersections of the quilt squares, orange yarn knots poked up from the field, again echoing the patterned walls. The bed itself was iron, treated with baked enamel white paint and some brass ornamental joins (I don't know what the hardware is properly called). It was quite high—maybe too high for that first year—and had a very full dust ruffle trimmed with an eyelet motif. The canopy matched, with the top ruffle hanging down about six inches or so; the best part, though, were the tie-back "curtains" that were usually kept open, held tight to the bed corners, but that I sometimes loosened to create a secret place, hidden from view. The white bed, adrift in the surrounding blue, created the impression of a cloud in the sky, and this is precisely the imagery I cultivated—privately at first, and then later with one friend in particular, a girl named T., who, like me, had a flair for dramatic play. I remember that T. and I would climb up onto our cloud and within its curtained boundaries create an entire cast of characters—angels of varying powers and personalities, Cupid among them—then set them off on winged adventures that involved plenty of intrigue and mischief. (Pucklike, despite the fact that Puck belongs to the fairy world and so I am mixing my allusions, we conspired against unknowing humans on a regular basis.) Dare I say, without implying a dismal sexuality, that I have never since had as much fun in a bed as I did in that canopy when I was a girl? Or that I never slept as well? After this came purgatorial futons, the standard box spring and mattress on a wretched metal frame with casters, no headboard, no dust ruffle, and certainly no canopy to suggest a fussier yet also simpler time in history. Tonight, I will toss and turn with insomnia most likely, but I will remember what it was like to sleep deeply, pillowed on a cloud, and maybe when I do drift off at last, my dreams will be a little lighter as a result.

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