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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Sleeping In
by Timm Severud

I dream of sleeping again in my grandparents cabin, a place now but a ghost of a memory... I dream again of a perfect nights sleep, untroubled by the doubts of adulthood and the fear that we are being pumped with everyday.

On my grandma's mattress; 9-11 never happened. On my grandma's mattress; nuclear weapons were but spit-wads of the mind. On my grandma's mattress; history was written in love with every stitch. On my grandma's mattress; sleeping in was not optional, it happened naturally.

My grandma was a seamstress and she was renowned for making wedding dresses. Women came from all over the northwestern part of the state to have her make such dresses for themselves or their daughters or granddaughters. I have seen pictures of the dresses Lottie made from the 1890s to the 1940s. She made all her own and her familyís clothing. I remember my mother telling me that she thought the best gift she was ever given, by her father was a dress from Sears & Roebuck, some how store bought was special. Lottie had many patterns, but the best were in her mind.

For every dollar grandpa made truck farming and trapping, she made 20 with her needle and thread and she would not consider an electric sewing machine because the old foot treadle model had a 'better feel'. In the 1930ís my Uncle Franklin hooked up a motor with a variable speed knee switch and removed the foot treadleÖ Lottie had a total conniption fit. And quickly the sewing machine was returned to form

The best thing she ever made was slept on, not worn, and was not something that was shown to the public but kept in the loft for her children & grandchildren to use. My motherís youngest sister, Virginia was the one that first used it and she talked fondly of it, saying it caused her to be late for school too many times.

It all started with my Uncle Warren, 'The Best Rabbit Choker in the Family' as she called him. One winter he snared over 350 rabbits in one winter. The meat was food the family needed and his dog was well feed also. But the treasure was made with the furs. Warren fleshed out the hides and did the delicate work of curing the hide with the fur on it. It took a while and the following winter my grandma did her magic and hand sewed together a mattress out of the snow-shoe hair hides on a canvas inner lining and pillow cases out of the cotton tail hides. She saved the money from 5 wedding dresses and ordered eider down from Iceland and stuffed the mattress and pillows with them. Grandma went through all the down and made sure their was not single sharp quill that might poke its way through, clipping it off if she found it.

The mattress was not pretty and it looked lumpy and odd. It did not fit on any frame and merely laid on the floor with a tarpaulin underneath it. It was big and filled up one end of the loft and was usually covered with too many blankets and boxes of clothing to sell at the next church bizarre.

I remember being about 4 years old and allowed to sleep in the loft and on it the first time... I was not allowed to drink anything after supper for fear I might leave my worst on the mattress. Grandma helped my up the ladder to the loft and made sure I knew what the slop bucket was for. She then removed the boxes and most of the blankets and put me on the bed, with my head on the pillow and a single red and black Pendleton 4-point blanket over me. She kissed me on the forehead and told me about the making of the bed and how the blanket was traded to her by an old Indian Grandma when Lottie made a wedding dress for her granddaughter and they could not afford to pay for it. As she got up to go back down the ladder she turned and said, "It is all made with love."

It was a hard bed to get out of and something tells me it would be harder today to get out of with my old bones and body. I remember looking into the rafters of the roof and there were the fishing poles, nets and waders; all those things that spoke of the life my grandparents understood. I remember drifting off to the thoughts of rabbit snares and checking them on the coldest morning with a happy dog leading the way. I feel asleep with the taste of rabbit and rutabagas in my dream.

Have you every laid on a cloud? Have you ever been engulfed with softness? Have you ever felt the world was perfect? Have you ever forgotten about everything but the felling of love that has a hold of you?

It was hard to wake up and in the morning. Eventually my Grandpa came up, picked me up with a laugh and carried me down the ladder to a late breakfast.

"That mattress is the best damn way to miss church don't you know?" He said with a wink and a knowing smile. When I looked around everyone else was at church, and it was just me and my 'heathen' Grandpa left to have brook trout, scrambled eggs, hard bread and milk.

I only slept on it a few times in my life and of course my Uncle Warren was given the mattress when it had to be doled out. Somewhere in California three more generations of Grandma's prodigy have been engulfed in the love only her fingers could have sewn together.

Have you ever slept on Grandma's mattress? Have you ever had a preview of heaven? Have you ever lost yourself to rabbit fur, goose down and an old Pendleton Blanket? I pity those that haven't but I pity more those that canít even imagine when I reminisce of such hand-sewn heritage!

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