The kids outgrew their bunk bed a lot faster than I had anticipated they would when we bought the thing from Ikea two years ago. My husband, hateful of Ikea furniture and, even moreso, the assembly of it, felt like the kids should sleep in that bed forever simply for the sweat he put into it. But two years later, they're done.
Nolan was on the bottom and didn't mind it too much, except that he's growing and had begun banging his head on the base of the top bunk on occasion. And Sean.... Sean was, to use his words, "lonely up there". He didn't like not being able to see his brother when they chatted in the darkness before sleep. He didn't like having his brother stir every time he tossed and turned in bed--and Sean moves a lot when he sleeps. And he cried big tears several times because not one of our three dogs could cuddle with him up on the top bunk, while Nolan's bed was a veritable den of happiness.
It was time to replace the beds.
One thing was certain: I didn't want to replace one Ikea bed with two Ikea beds, if at all possible. And then I remembered something wonderful: In the basement of my ex-husband's house, two twin beds from my great-grandmother's house were being stored. I quickly emailed him.
"Do you still have the beds from Great Grandma's?"
They're old. How old, I don't know. But the thing is, they're real. No particleboard. No dowels. No printed instructions with a picture of a little guy and a question mark over his head. The beds are a matched pair of rock maple twins from around the 40s--maybe. The royal We (read: Ian) moved them from my ex-husband's house to ours, cleaned them up, and began the process of dismantling and reassembling the kids' room to fit the new sleeping arrangements.
Last weekend we tackled the beast, once and for all. The old bed came down; the new beds went up, and now the kids are sleeping in beds (well, in frames anyway) that I slept in as a kid when I used to visit my great grandmother up at her house in Webster, MA. Nostalgia kind of overwhelmed me, in a good way, when the room was complete and the beds were made. I clearly remember all the hundreds of times my grandmother and I would go visit her mother, and we'd sleep in the twin beds in the bedroom at the top of the wide staircase. I remembered leaping out of bed and running to the kitchen at the back of the house when I heard the train whistles blowing in the middle of the night, hoping to catch a glimpse through the trees of the freight cars shooting past at the bottom of the hill below the massive green Victorian on the corner of Hill and High Streets.
The boys love their "new" room. They love their racks of trophies and shelves of inventions. They love that their closet is now a secret hide-out. They love their new, "normal" beds. They love that the beds are an old part of our family. "Which bed did you sleep in, Mom? Which one did Grandma sleep in?" I slept by the one near the window, kid, whichever one that is.
388 High Street belongs to another family now. It was a spectacular home built in the 1890s by my cousins the McGauley's when they arrived from Ireland. My great grandparents raised a family there, and my great aunt and uncle lived on the first floor until the mid-90s. The wrap-around porch is gone. The clapboard siding has been covered in boring, beige vinyl. The hedgerows are unkempt. No one in the family likes to take a drive by there anymore, even if they find themselves in the area.
But the stories--and the beds--still belong to us. Last night I climbed the stairs and checked on the boys one last time before turning in. I could hear the echoing clang-clang of the buoys in the harbor. Not far away, a train sounded its horn as it approached Union Station. Nolan was sound asleep in the bed by the window. And Sean was sleeping snugly in his bed by the wall, with Cee Cee curled up by his side.