Nothing symbolizes the start of summer in our neck of cottage country more than a mattress. And that’s not due to the strange alchemy and hormonal urges that meld dangerously when sand, sun and teenagers mix. No, it’s rather because June 1 is traditionally big garbage day.
This is the one day a year when cottage owners can place just about anything out by the roadside and it will be picked up, either by scavengers who cruise by relentlessly in pickup trucks, or later by sanitation workers. Mattresses lie up and down the street like so many discarded teeth. I once counted 42 of them when the kids and I went for a short bike ride around the block.
This is the time of year mattresses fear the most. Turkeys and pumpkins get nervous as Thanksgiving and Halloween approach in the fall. Hearts start to flutter in February just before Valentine’s Day. But mattresses get scared when the snow disappears and the first blades of grass shoot up from the soil.
That’s when they’re on their best behaviour and keep their tossing and turning to a minimum. I always sleep my soundest in late May. Mattress elders know the day of reckoning is at hand and word goes out across the land. Some unstable mattresses never bounce back from the trauma.
Which mattresses get marked for this sad moment? There is a mystical creature that inspects all mattresses on a regular basis throughout the year. It does this work under contract, but as a sideline, also has the baby-teeth-recycling account.
We humans can turn in a loose tooth, in good condition, and you get a dollar back. It’s more lucrative than taking beer or wine bottles back to the store. That’s why we know this possibly-androgynous magical being as the tooth fairy. But in mattress land, this beast is referred to in hushed tones as “the posturepedic reaper”.
There are three stages in the life of a mattress. In its formative years, a young coltish mattress has a spring in its flop. As it grows into adulthood, its physique remains firm but forgiving. In old age, its fortunes start to sag.
If you’ve never seen a mattress graveyard, it’s a thing of awesome beauty. Mighty birds, usually seagulls, circle and pirouette in the sky. It is only with alarming disrespect that this location is sometimes referred to as the town dump.
The other items that are most often discarded on big garbage day – plastic chairs, carpet remnants, old skis and anything made of wicker – act as sentinels. They stand on guard and provide companionship as each old mattress makes its silent way, with solemn dignity, into an everlasting afterlife.
Sometimes, you have to step out of your own way and take the time to savor beauty ‒ an elemental truth known by The Seagull Poet of Butter Bay.