This is a flash fiction piece called The Bed. I prefer to write quickly, and this is a 15 minute piece. I initially wrote this during the first lockdown, when I tried out a Zoom class to keep me occupied. Now I've lost my mother, this seems even more poignant to me.
“It’s just a bed,” she heard her son-in-law say, “old now, worn.”
“Yes,” her daughter agreed, “better to get her something more... comfortable. Never liked this tatty old thing ...”
“Something modern and new - with a rail at the side too, “ he agreed.
Lily heard her son-in-law as she lay there, arms resting gently on the worn tartan bedspread, eyes closed as if in prayer but mind still half awake.
"Mu-uu-ummm," he said loudly and slowly. "Mu-u-umm. We'll... beeee... gettting... you... a new... beeeeddd..."
Why was he shouting at her like that? She could understand him perfectly. And why did they think she needed a new bed?
"It’s my bed,” she said. "I like my bed." But even she could tell that her words were snuffled and unclear.
"What's that Mum? You'd like a new bed wouldn't you?"
Lily knew it was no use. What did it matter now anyway?
This was the bed she’d first lain in almost ninety years ago, thrust into her mother’s arms, sucking at the breast for warmth and comfort. It was where she'd first heard the soothing warmth of her mother's voice, “There my child there, drink somemore for me. So you’ll grow big and strong like your pa…”
The bed was a cocoon against the world outside, against her battering of siblings who shouted and jostled for attention. Later, after her parents died, it became her very own. Independence for a brief while, and then when she found Harry, a place of love, security and warmth.
Then it was her turn to provide soothing words to each new child she bore. Her turn to nurture them with love in her arms and whisper the same words her mother had said all those years ago. "There my child there, drink some more - so you'll grow up big and strong like you pa."
And, after Harry, it became her refuge. Her place of tears, where she nestled in its solace and comfort, until she came to understand her peculiar independence again.
Her parents' bed. Her own. Harry's. Even the children's, as they piled around her on Saturday mornings, a melee of feet, hands and heads disappearing under the covers, and their faces listening intently as she told them half-forgotten stories of her childhood. Different glints of love all rolled into one large and sturdy bed frame.
And now, her face lined, eyes closed unable to see, and shivering with cold although it was warm, the bed had become her place of comfort once again. She smelt her youngest's rose perfume and felt a warm mug at her lips. "There mum," her youngest whispered, "drink up some soup for me - make you strong."
She could not speak now or share her feelings. But if she could, she would have said that only one who has no understanding would think that it was just a bed – to be tossed aside or sold. It hardly mattered which. And only one who has found love, belonging and security within its warmth, would appreciate the joy and comfort it gave her, as she lay there, thinking, in just her bed.