The mattress I bought in the Albert Cuyp market in 2007 has traveled internationally more than most, and I suspect more than most people.
The initial move to Canada, which motivated the purchase in the fist place, turned out to be one of our bigger mistakes in life. We trusted people who were not trustworthy. After enduring a container-bound trip to Montreal and across Canada by rail, our new mattress was briefly unpacked and used in a Vancouver-area condo. If it were a sentient being it no doubt would have had serious concerns about the couple it was kindly supporting every night: lots of stress, tossing and turning, many hours of fraught conversations and tears, and consequently not the best sex either.
However, some good did come from the first move to Canada and in fact redeemed it – one of our teenage daughters was set on a path toward a great partner and career – but within four months the rest of us were on our way back to the Netherlands. Repackaged in heavy brown paper, the mattress made the return train journey to Montreal and was then shipped back to Rotterdam. Finally, it was carried up four steep flights of stairs to a flat overlooking the Warmondstraat in Amsterdam, where it would stay wrapped as it stood in the corner awaiting a more permanent housing situation.
In June of 2008 the mattress could breathe again, the packaging coming off in another flat, this one in the Rembrandtweg in Amsterdam’s southern suburb of Amstelveen. Less stress, deeper sleep, happier banter and better sex became the order of the day, and the mattress, I’m sure, knew it had found a good home.
Yes, there was that relational bump in the road when we were gifted an enormous, bespoke, solid oak four-poster queen bed, and the double pine bed and mattress were relegated to another room, but it wasn’t long before comfort and long familiarity won out over the uppity newcomers, and the pine bed and mattress were restored to their rightful place.
In early 2011 the crew of another moving company arrived to wrap the mattress in thick plastic for a trip to…Canada. We were ready to give it another go, this time with a job offer from honest people. The third trip across the Atlantic, through Rotterdam, Montreal and onward to Vancouver, saw the mattress make its home in the village of Cedar on Vancouver Island. Happy times matched very clean air and deep sleep under dark, starry skies. But ultimately Vancouver Island proved a step too far for all concerned and in 2013 we made the relatively short hop back to the mainland, this time the mattress traveling unwrapped and by conveyance of a simple U-Haul truck. Our new address was Abbotsford, east of Vancouver.
The final trans-Atlantic trip, the most exotic of all, came in the Spring of 2016. The previous November I had agreed to take a job at Heathrow, in London, and so, for one last time, the mattress was wrapped in plastic and moved into a large orange shipping container. This time, however, the container was shipped down the West Coast of North America and through the Panama Canal, with a planned change of carriers in Cartagena, Columbia. The first ship was late by a day (back-up at the Canal) so the container spent three hot and humid weeks on the quay in Cartagena. Meanwhile in London, we slept fitfully.
A few months ago we recognised that our beloved mattress just wasn’t the same as when we first bought it. No matter which way we turned it, or turned it over, it no longer gave us adequate support. We bought a replacement but decided to keep our trusty old one for when we had an overflow number of visitors. It was an admirable strategy but impractical; a good quality inflatable airbed takes far less space and makes more sense.
And so yesterday I guided the mattress down the stairs, ready now to be picked up by the borough’s rubbish collectors when they make their rounds on Thursday.
I’m not normally nostalgic about items of furniture but as I put the old mattress up against the wall, I leaned on it for a bit and reviewed the 10+ years of family history which it represented. The four trans-Atlantic moves, the soul-searching, the anguish and delight, the parents of teenagers becoming empty-nesters and then grandparents, the fevered illnesses, the chilly winter and sweaty summer nights. And all those times when we would come home from a week or two away, slip under the duvet and say out loud, “Oh, it’s so nice to be in our own bed again!”
Not a bad record of service from a bit of fabric-covered foam rubber. Thank you, Mattress!