Day 24 of The Literal Challenge aka Like The Prose

How do you build a story around a single object? Maybe you wonder where it came from, what its life was like in a former existence. Maybe you wonder what it will become. Perhaps you think about how it has been a part of your own life. And maybe, just maybe, you want others to appreciate it the way you do.

Great oaks from little acorns

This bedframe is saturated with life.

It is a beautiful piece of artistry, this solid oak bedframe. Substantial sides hold a deep mattress in place; wooden posts, smoothed with time, stand sentinel at the foot, a beautifully carved bedrail joining them together. It is as sensorily satisfactory as it is aesthetically pleasing: her fingers trace the curves where straight rail swells slightly into a more rounded shape, the carpenter’s craftsmanship, his love of working with wood, plainly evident in these moulded details and in the carefully sculpted finials that adorn each post. Perhaps, though, it is the headboard most of all that calls to her soul: the gentle curves and undulations of the solid piece of wood are thrown into relief by the carved wooden acorn and oak leaves that adorn its centre – a reminder of what it has come from.

The wood sings of its time in the forest, before it was cut down. Every knothole whispers secrets; each imperfection has a story to tell. The pattern of the woodgrain flows like time itself: not in a straight line but diverging then converging once more until the map of the tree’s life is interwoven into the piece of furniture it has become. Gone is the rough bark that clothed it then: instead, satiny smooth timber has been planed and honed, carved and joined, with care and precision to produce something that is like and yet unlike a tree. Where once birds rested in the branches overhead, soft toys now curl up in slumbering positions amidst the cushions and covers that have replaced twigs and leaves. It is a metamorphosis worthy of a Greek legend, except instead of a hapless damsel becoming a laurel, or a foolish shepherd being transformed into an olive tree, this once mighty oak has become a sanctuary for weary human bodies and indolent felines. It still shelters, still protects, but it is now firmly rooted indoors, not out.   

This former tree has outlasted nine house moves, three children and one failed marriage. Although worn by life, it is not worn out. Its original mattress is long since dead and gone but all the bedslats are still intact – despite the number of times the bed has been dismantled and reassembled. Its first home was in leafy Surrey, then it travelled to a much smaller bedroom in Kent, where its king-sized five feet width seemed to fill every inch of space. Somehow, a Moses basket managed to squeeze in beside it: a poor shadow of the bed’s magnificent splendour and lasting only a few months. Any number of other beds have come and gone in this family unit – bunk beds; metal single bedframes; even a six feet wide imposter, upholstered in cream leather but lacking a comforting presence at the foot – but she has remained constant to her first love, to the bed in which her children were conceived, fed and read to; the bed from whose posts she hung Christmas stockings – gloriously large, fat things in felt and appliqué, whose contents produced squeals of laughter and delight for a decade of childhood.

She kept the bed when she ditched the husband: it was far more welcoming than he ever was – and more reliable. It travelled with her to a tiny rented house where, by dint of sheer stubbornness, she managed to reassemble it single handed. For a while she almost lived in it, choosing to curl up in it in the evenings as if it were her nest, finding it preferable to sofas or armchairs.

Twenty-two years after it was first bought, it retains its original beauty. The wood still glows with the memory of life; the minor scuffs and scratches cannot detract from its charm. The carved acorn, she realises, is symbolic: reminding us of what we have come from; looking forward to what we will become. She wonders now if her grandchildren will one day curl up there with her; if her twilight years will be spent nesting once more in the sanctuary of her wooden cradle.

This bedframe is saturated with her life.

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