Anyone who knows me at all would have been able to tell you that I would not change my son’s room when he left for college. I mean, really, just because my husband and I live in a one bedroom apartment that we gerrymandered into two tiny bedrooms when he was born, why would we feel like we needed more space? As my spouse and beloved partner (who like me, is not a great fan of separation) put it many times, “He’s still a kid. He still needs to have a place to come back to.”
When it became clear that our offspring was not coming home to live after he graduated from college, my husband and I decided to turn the no-longer-utilized bedroom into a legitimate office. (We have a lovely pullout couch in the living room, which he generally preferred on his visits, because he had gotten too big to sleep comfortably on the extra-long twin bed which was all that his tiny bedroom could accommodate.)
So, we started making plans. First, of course, we had to sell or give away the captain’s bed that took up most of the floor space in the room. (Many New York City kids will understand this: our child got to college after living his entire life in very small quarters, took a look at the crowded room he would be sharing with his new roommates, and let out a surprised and joyful breath. “Look at all this space!” he said.) I put an ad on Craig’s list, but got no responses – not a single one. We lowered the price and then offered to give it away, but still got nothing.
My husband called a variety of thrift shops and organizations that take used furniture. No one wanted a captain’s bed. “We just can’t get rid of them,” said the representative at Goodwill.
The bed had not been expensive and had certainly served its purpose, so it was not about getting money for it. But really, we thought, someone else must be able to benefit from this piece of furniture. And there was also the moral issue. We believe in recycling. We are careful about turning off our electric equipment when we’re not using it. We take public transportation instead of driving whenever possible. We simply could not tolerate the idea of throwing the bed onto our ever-increasing landfill.
Finally, the Salvation Army took the bedframe, but state law prohibited them from taking the mattress. Although it appeared clear that no one was going to take the mattress, we didn’t want to accept it. Having been bought shortly before our son left for college, it was practically never used. Our son, a varsity athlete, had spent his college holidays at winter and spring practice, and summers he had worked overseas or out of state. Over the course of four years he had probably slept on the bed a total of two or three months.
But we could not find anyone who wanted a gently used mattress. Even one with a dust mite cover which my son needed for his allergies; but which we also had heard protected it from bedbugs. We put up signs in our building’s basement. We asked at our local bodega, where I get my coffee every morning, and I checked with the kids who work in the copy shop where I copy papers for classes I teach. No one wanted it. We put up notes at the local colleges and in the local bookshop (yes, one still exists in our neighborhood). I asked my housekeeper to ask around, and for a week we thought we had found someone. But in the end, no one seemed to need an extra-long twin mattress.
Meantime, we set up the room with small table which served as a desk, a comfortable desk chair, phone, light, and the desktop computer that had previously sat in the middle of our living room. Now the living room looked much neater. It appeared that adults lived in this apartment. But the new office was marred by the gigantic, dust mite covered presence.
It looked like were going to have to bite the bullet and throw it out. But before we did, we decided to make one more last ditch effort to find a home for it.
This time I found a taker! A friend who had recently done some renovations on her home could definitely use it. And as often happens, when the moment is right, everything went smoothly. The mattress was retrieved, removed, and taken to its new home. The doormen and porters in my building, who had none of them needed or wanted it, were incredibly helpful as we transferred it from its old home to the van that would take it to its new one.
Maybe it’s true that the more you have to work at something, the more pleasure it gives you. Certainly, our new space looks wonderful to us now that the mattress is gone. We’ve brought in the old gliding chair from the living room, which makes both spaces look even nicer. I’m not even sad that it’s now definitely not my son’s room. Although I do have to move his old cuddly bear from the glider when I sit down to read.