Saturday, August 16, 2014

Once Upon A Mattress

                                                   Once Upon A Mattress
            I always knew I was a princess. Not any old run-of-the-mill princess, mind you, but a fairy tale princess. Not just any fairy tale princess, mind you, but a princess like the one from “The Princess and the Pea”. None of your Snow Whites or Rapunzels for me. Cinderella came close, but I could never do the glass slipper.
            How did I know my royal roots? When I was a child I could not sleep unless and until I had made the bed conditions exactly “right”. The sheets had to be smoothed just so and the top sheet could not be tucked in imprisoning my feet. The quilts had to cover every inch of me, including my ears. Once I had perfected my sleep tunnel, I slept like, well, like a child. Instinctively I knew that if some evil person such as my sister hid a pea beneath my mattress, I would not sleep a wink, but would toss and turn and wake grumpy.
            This, despite the fact that I slept on a roll-away bed for most of my childhood. If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to have had that experience, I don’t have to describe it. The mattress is thin, lumpy, and sags in the middle. Fortunately, I also had a down mattress on top of that. Another requisite for princess-hood. Down mattresses and comforters and pillows are de rigueur to a true princess.
            When water beds were all the rage, I was in personal heaven. Except for those times when I needed to rearrange the furniture. Difficult, but not insurmountable. One day twenty-some years ago I went to Nordstroms and bought the most expensive mattress in the store and that was a truly wonderful purchase. I enjoyed it all the years until I moved and left all my furniture to others.
            In my rented furnished apartment in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico, the bed, which sports a headboard so ugly I avert my eyes rather than look at it, but who sleeps on the headboard, has a typical Mexican mattress. I have attempted sleep on many hotel mattresses in Mexico and most of them are kissing cousins to the one in my casa. I don’t really know what is inside for stuffing. I am not sure I want to know. I suspect the innards are chipped from a slab of bedrock and covered with mattress cloth. All these months I have been miserable, sleep deprived and grumpy.
            I’m not at all ready to accumulate furniture, but finally decided that I must at least buy a cheap but soft mattress, if I could find a soft mattress, and plunk it atop the one already on the bed. Maybe two mattresses would do the trick. Then when I went elsewhere, I intended to leave the mattress for the next renter. Notice, I ignored the admonition from the fairy tale. Two wrongs never make a right.
So I arranged to go shopping with Rudy, my interpreter and Carlos, my driver and interpreter. Yes, sometimes it takes the three of us to make me understood.
            The store we entered surprised and delighted me. “I know that brand. And this one. And the mattress over there is much like the mattress I had back home.” In moments I changed my strategy. My mind buzzed with information: Why get another cheap mattress that might be stuffed with pebbles or corn shucks or old newspaper? A third of one’s life is spent on a mattress. Why not get a “great” mattress, one that you know, inside and out? Go for the quality, Girl. Wherever you go next, if you have a wonderful mattress, take it with you. And the clincher—remember who you are, Princess.
            My interpreters each chose a mattress and plopped down for a snooze. I tested every mattress in the store. At one point, I had to bump Carlos off his mattress so I could make sure that was not the one I wanted. Finally I narrowed my choice to three, tested twice more and bought the most expensive mattress in the store.
            That evening two able young men delivered my mattress. They muscled it through the doorway and into my bedroom where they placed it carefully atop the existing foundation mattress. They stood back. I stood next to the bed. We three burst out laughing.
            A ladder would be required for me to climb onto my bed. So the two young men hefted my mattress off the bed, man-handled the old mattress out onto the back patio and repositioned my new mattress. And it is perfect. No matter how soft the top mattress, how could a true princess sleep if beneath the good stuff, lay a lumpy old mattress, stuffed with dry pea pods.
Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

July 3, 2014 

Random Thoughts; Some Senseless, Some Beautiful

Random Thoughts; Some Senseless, Some Beautiful
            Today is my last day at the Luna Palace. This week I have intensely soaked up impressions along with sun, sand and surf.
            Bird Island has gone from brown to green with our few modest sprinkles. People assure me the rainy season is around the corner. Birds at my feet inspire contemplation. When I breakfast by the pool, the mourning doves diligently search for crumbs, pounding their beaks onto the tiles. Do their beaks wear out? Do you suppose when they snuggle into their nests at night, we might hear, “Not tonight honey. I have a headache. Hard day on the patio.” When I breakfast under a palapa, I watch pelicans dive headfirst into the surf. What keeps them from getting their heads stuck in the sand? Somebody has to think about these things!
            Sadly, I watch young and not-young walk along the beach with ear buds pumping music, drowning out sounds of surf, while their eyes are glommed onto an electronic screen, fingers on keyboards. Do they know where they are? Thumbs seem to be the principal means of communication. Innovations swing to the beat of a pendulum, from one extreme to another, banging both walls. I trust that the pendulum will swing to a center of balance before we lose our senses of sight and sound and human warmth.
            In the weeks I have been here, all the guests are couples, families or groups. I am the only single person, solita.  I am alone but not lonely. I talk and laugh with employees and beach vendors selling blankets, baskets, hammocks, silver jewelry, and coconuts. Everyone, housekeeping, waiters, and groundskeepers, knows my name. I’ve no idea how it happened but I have become Cassandra Juanita. Yesterday one of the housekeeping staff, who speaks not a word of English, but we greet one another daily, took me aside, gently parted the leaves in a tree to show me a nest with  mother dove and two tiny babies. You can’t get that level of communication with a tweet.
            This morning I watched tragedy averted. Two women with their quite elderly mother had settled under the palapa next to mine. We exchanged greetings. They took their mother out into the ocean and supported her while she floated. I felt shamed because I am scared to go into the water past my knees. If I fell, I don’t know how I would get up. I’m not a swimmer.
Mom came back to the palapa to rest while the two sisters swam and played. They are good swimmers. Distance is deceptive at low tide. They swam too close to the rocks by the jetty and were caught in a rip tide. One of the women panicked. Her sister swam to her side to help. The tide carried them further from shore. Both floundered and screamed for help.
Two young lifeguards plunged into the water, closely followed by two beach vendors. People on the shore audibly prayed. The energy felt intense. The swimmers seemed to stroke in slow motion. But the men arrived in time, brought the women to safety and into the grateful arms of their mother; a reunion celebrated with glad tears.  

            One of the beach vendors is teaching me to play conquin, a card game. We draw an audience to watch if I will win or lose. I tell them, “He cheats.” They say, “Look at his face.” He grins. Some mornings, when I am lucky, I win one out of three hands. Then I grin.
            Every day I walk in the surf, careful to not go past my knees. But I get caught by the occasional aggressive wave. I stand still until it passes. I would like to throw caution to the winds and dive in, but I don’t.  
Now and then I have moments of fear. I like to follow my fears to what I imagine as “worst possible scenario”. The latest one culminated in being disabled, on the dole, warehoused in a substandard nursing home, medicated to keep me quiet, cold, alone and friendless. Then I got the giggles. One cannot laugh and stay afraid.
Speaking of worst possible scenarios, I am constantly cleaning my glasses. I’m sure it is the salt air, not my encroaching cataracts. I am terrified of surgery. I can’t even stand to have Dr. Obie, a saint of patience with me, put the puff of air into my eyes. There is no way I can sit still for surgery. So I devised a solution. The doctor can have the mammogram machine wheeled into surgery, clamp my head between the metal plates, duct tape my eyelids open and laser away. Clever, I thought. Someone has to think of these things!
Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

June 26, 2014