Once Upon A Mattress (or When I Knew I Was A Grownup)

Moving day roadkill.

My back against the staircase wall, I braced one foot against the banister.  I didn’t dare swipe at the tears streaming down my face.  It took both hands on the mattress’ flimsy handle to keep it from sliding down the stairs.  Again.  

Welcome to adulthood.

Just one month earlier I had been a carefree student.  I crammed for finals and ignored the unpleasant fact that I did not have a job lined up.

And then I was done.  College was over.  I landed back in my old bedroom in my parents’ house.   Boxes of costly textbooks found their first après-school home in the garage.  I would lug those books around for years, their numbers dwindling as they fell victim to the hazards of basement life.  Principles of Cost Accounting would be lost to a sewer backup, Microeconomics to a family of mice. 

It isn’t that I hadn’t tried to find a job. In the dark ages before the internet, we researched prospective employers at the library.  I researched diligently.  We had our resumes professionally printed and sent them out with cover letters, hand-typed on creamy vellum.  I typed and mailed profusely.  But the perfect, glamorous job did not materialize.  No job materialized.   

After a week at home I was starting to panic when, out the blue, one of the hopeful inquiries I let fly came back to roost.  I got a call for an interview, which led to a job offer.  A good job offer.  It was a couple of states away, and could I start in a week?


My new employer paid for a moving van, a semi so big it had trouble backing up into our narrow driveway.  I should have told them a mini-van would do.

I didn’t have much, as I had never lived on my own before.  There was a chair, a lamp, a coffee table and my clothes.  I had added a stereo and a set of dishes from a garage sale that week.  My pitiful belongings were the only things in the van’s cavernous hold.  They huddled together, as frightened as I was to be moving to a place we had never even seen.

I tried to keep a stiff upper lip as I waved goodbye to my family and drove off in the little car my parents helped me to buy.

After a week in a hotel I found an apartment on the second floor of a converted old house.    I decided to splurge on a bed after a few nights on the ancient couch that came with the place.   Finances being what they were, I went to the Salvation Army.   They didn’t deliver.  But they helped strap the box springs and mattress to the roof of my car.  I knew no one in town, save for the few co-workers whose names I was still trying to get straight. 

And so I found myself trying to wrestle that damn mattress up the damn, twisting staircase I had thought charming when the landlady showed me the place. 

Four years of college had left me with a business degree, a pile of student loans, and an impressive wardrobe of obscenities.  I tried on every one of them, hissed through gritted teeth as I paused to catch my breath.   I started crying.

Sweating, swearing and crying, the mattress and I wedged between the wall and banister, it occurred to me.   For the first time in my life, there was no parent or sibling, no friend, roommate or boyfriend to lean on.  There was only me to finish this job, and anything else that would come along. And so I did.

I’d like to say some sort of steely resolve, or newfound strength accompanied my epiphany.   It wasn’t that dramatic.  I wrestled that mattress the rest of the way up the stairs because if I didn’t, that’s where I would be sleeping.  

That was when I knew I was a grownup.

What was your moment of truth?

About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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20 Responses to Once Upon A Mattress (or When I Knew I Was A Grownup)

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Oh, Peg, it’s not too late. Come back to Never Never Land with me and Peter and the Lost Boys. We won’t grow up, we won’t grow up…


  2. Jane says:

    March 29, 1982 at 2 AM. I was 21. It was the moment the nurse put my new baby in my arms for the first time. Life was never going to be the same.


  3. close2bliss says:

    Oh, Peg, I suppose it was when I made my first mortgage payment at the age of 27….I’m a late bloomer! I love your blog. Would you love mine back, please? close2bliss.wordpress.com Thanks!!


  4. ssarah24 says:

    You were attempting to lug a mattress up the stairs in RED HEELS?! 😮 No wonder you had so much problems! But congrats on becoming a “grown up”… I think.


  5. sarajane414 says:

    It was actually not too long ago as a matter of fact. Just the other night I sat in my one bedroom apartment and it hit me, “wow…this is all MINE! I worked for it and I acquired it all on my own” and this past friday night I realized, wow….I live alone! No parents, no friends, nothing….just me!


  6. Lance Ponder says:

    I think my (first) epiphany was when I woke up at 4 am to the sound of a drill instructor kicking a trashcan down the isle of the barracks to wake us all up on my first morning at boot camp. It was just like something in the movies, except no pause button.


  7. egills says:

    I suppose I should say aged 20 on March 7th 1990 at 7.25am when I finally met my first born.. however to be honest? I’m still waiting.. maybe that was when my mum realised she was a grown up? When I walk in the front door of our new home I feel like I now have a proper grown up house, so maybe it snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking?


  8. I don’t think there was an isolated event for me. Working my way through college was big. But, sometimes I still feel clueless, and now I have a husband to do the heavy lifting.


  9. Cheryl says:

    I knew I was a grown up after I had my one and only child and was rinsing out a diaper in the toilet. I was 21 and thought.. “I went to college and here I am, dipping a poopy thick piece of fabric in and out of a toilet. This is my life”. (And yes, they really did have disposable diapers back then, but they were expensive and we were living on 1 income). You know kind of that reality moment that..playing house was fun and having a baby wonderful, but there’s something about rinsing out a cloth diaper that just makes it all seem so very real…


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