Hollyhocks and Feather Beds


As I noted in an earlier post, both of my grandparents’ homes were heated using wood stoves.  While the homes were very livable, the use of a single wood stove did leave some rooms colder than others.  In my maternal grandmother’s home, the living room and one bedroom were warmed well by the wood stove.  The kitchen was usually warm from the cooking that occurred there, with a wood stove in my early childhood  and an electric range later.  This left one  bedroom that was usually colder than the rest of the house.  That bedroom was used by cousins who stayed with her in their youth, and later by some of us who were only visiting.  One thing that made the room unusual was that instead of a traditional mattress and spring set, the bed was instead a “feather bed” or a mattress filled with feathers.  This wasn’t a problem for her since she had raised chickens and always had a supply of feathers.  The result was a really soft mattress where you literally sank down into it when you went to bed.  When topped with a quilt (my grandmother made handmade quilts) or two and a light bedspread it was a warm and cozy place to sleep.  I can remember spending nights in that bed, sometimes alone, sometimes with cousins, and it was always fun.  Today I can’t imagine sleeping in a bed like that even though it was so enjoyable at the time.

I also remember spending hours playing in her yard where some of the most predominant plants were hollyhocks.  Most of these plants had been there all of my life so each summer they were probably around six feet tall (although at the time they seemed much taller) and while there were probably multiple colors, the one I remember most is dark red.  The hollyhock plants were much more dense than the trees in the nearby forested areas (what we called “the woods”) – in fact so dense they were difficult to walk through. Because they were so tall and thick they made good places to hide and play around.  Bees were common around the hollyhocks but I don’t remember ever getting stung or having any problems with them.

Today the house where she lived is long gone along with much of the cotton farming ground around it.  Instead of older farm homes, fields, and wooded areas there are industrial buildings and warehouses.  Still, the memories are there for those of us who spent time in her home.

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