Every night I crawl into the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in. Next to me is my husband, and usually between us, tucked behind someone's knees, or warming someone's toes, is our little dog. It is the safest place I know. It has comforted me in sickness, refreshed me in exhaustion, cradled me in love. It has served us well. And it was a gift from someone we did not know.
Mr. Spouse and I met in May of 2007, just a few days after I graduated from college. Most of you know that story. We went on a road trip together, that lasted only a few days, but when we returned we just kept right on talking. That summer we spent getting to know one another, but within a few weeks I think we knew . . . if you know what I mean. There was something different about this time. I knew, for example, that I would be leaving on September 2 to move to Lexington, Kentucky. My summer had a definitive ending, his did not. By August, however, Tim was also moving to Kentucky. He had enrolled in seminary, found an apartment, and we were going on that adventure now . . . together.
Tim moved without a bed. He owned very little furniture at all. In fact, what he did end up using for his apartment was mine to begin with. What he had to put on his walls, I gave him. He had nothing to sleep on. We knew our first item on the agenda once we arrived was to purchase a bed. After spending the first night sleeping on the floor on a pile of blankets, the next day we went to a little local mattress store that we had passed several times on errands. We tried some beds, and then left. We visited several other mattress stores, larger and more commercial and expensive, and then returned to the smaller store. When we entered the store a second time we were not the only customers.
There was a family, a man, woman, and their daughter - if I remember correctly. The woman was rather loud, she was very talkative with the salesman, and very picky. But she meant well. She tried multiple beds. She walked with the assistance of a cane, but wasn't old, and she was clearly looking for a top notch mattress. She saw us testing mattresses together in the "cheaper" section. We were really the only two sets of customers in a rather small store. It was hard to avoid her. We definitely didn't have to try to eavesdrop, but we certainly weren't trying not to.
Suddenly, she called us over and demanded we try the mattress she was standing next to. We saw no reason not to, except it was $1000 mattress and well out of our price range. But she wasn't someone you really said no to, so we did it just for fun. I'm not gonna lie. That bed felt goooood. It felt damn good, actually. Especially after spending the previous night on the cold, hard, wood floor. It was a spring bed, with a nice and firm, yet cushy, pillow top layer. Then this woman starts lecturing us on why we should purchase a really good, supportive bed..."to avoid ending up in her shape." She asked how we came to be there, and learned we were new in town. She was interested in my theater work, and Tim's being in seminary. She spoke to us as if we were married... I distinctly remember that: she spoke to us as if we were married, as if we were selecting our marriage bed.
Next thing we know she's negotiating for us with the salesman. She's telling him he HAS to sell us this bed, and bring down the price, AND throw in 2 memory foam pillows (valued at $50 each) for free. The guy is just laughing and shaking his head. We sort of wander away... feeling uncomfortable. Even if the salesman brought the price way way way down, it was still out of our price range. We're back over in the "cheap" section, when the salesman approaches us. I'll never forget what he said...
"This sort of thing doesn't happen everyday, so if I were you, I'd take advantage of it. This woman wants to pay for half of this mattress, if you'll agree to take it. She isn't really someone you say no to, so I've agreed to sell the floor sample at a discounted price."
We didn't really know what to say, yet Tim soon found himself paying for half a once out-of-our-reach mattress, with two free memory foam pillows thrown into the deal... for free. The family finished with their own order, arranged for delivery and departed. We sort of stood in the store, dumbfounded. Their van began to pull away. Suddenly, the the van stopped, the door opened, and the husband ran back in...
"Would you like to join us for dinner?"
I'm not going to lie... I'd like to end the story there, and maybe I should. After that, it gets awkward and the story no longer feels warm and fuzzy. I mean, how can you say no to someone who just dropped $500 on you - a perfect stranger? So we said yes and joined them (at Golden Corral, no less), but it was a dinner full of awkward conversation and indebtedness. I even remember slipping off one of my rings, and putting it on my ring finger, because it became evident they were rather conservative and religious, and I didn't want to answer any questions of that nature. Now I laugh at that.... how silly!
But the reason I share this, is because I think that woman was not only generous, but had special intuition about us. I think she knew something about our relationship even we had yet to learn. Five years later, we are married, and that bed has gone with us from Kentucky, to Washington, DC, and home to Texas. It has held us in conflict and contentment. And it has been a good, supportive friend to us the whole way.