featherIt’s a miracle! I recently lost forty pounds in one day, and I did it without diet pills, protein shakes, or exercise. Okay, so the weight wasn’t actually on my body, but it had weighed on my spirit for years, and losing it made me feel as good as if my five-year-old jeans suddenly fit.

Early in our marriage (and we’re going on forty-seven years), my great-aunt gave the Goat and me a vintage feather mattress she’d inherited from her mother, who had personally plucked each feather that filled it and washed, dried, fluffed, and stuffed them into blue mattress ticking. Large enough for a double bed, the thing was no featherweight: it weighed, literally, forty pounds.

We toted the thing around for years, never knowing what to do with it. Once, early on, we tried it as a mattress topper, but it required daily beatings with a broomstick to fluff it up and subsequent smoothings to even it out—way too much work for this girl. And as it turned out, I’m allergic to feathers.

After that, we sentenced the featherbed to years of substandard existence squished between various mattresses and box springs. After our last daughter moved out and took (most of) her stuff with her, I trussed the featherbed up and stuffed it on her closet shelf.

Out of sight, out of mind. Or so they say. Enter my foray into Minimalism. After tackling, more or less, the rest of the house, I decided to purge the closet in our daughter’s room. I’d taken the closet over, and the purging was mostly of my own clothes, including the five-year-old jeans. But the featherbed lurked there like some lumpy monster waiting to attack me unaware and smother me to death. I thought of the extra space I’d have—the monster occupied three-quarters of the shelf!—and how organized I could be if it were gone.

If you’re clueless about how to dispose of a featherbed, the internet is pretty much useless. Eventually I landed on a long-abandoned forum where a bunch of Susie Homemakers suggested dismantling the featherbed, washing and drying the covering and feathers (separately, I assumed, although I’ve no doubt the Susies would have risen cheerfully to the challenge presented by dumping everything together) and then reassembling everything into pillows for one’s children.

Uh-huh. I kept reading. The last suggestion came from a free spirit who’d taken her vintage feather mattress to the middle of her twenty-five acre homestead, where she disassembled it and “returned the feathers to nature.” I considered that for about five seconds, but two things stopped me from doing it. First, we don’t have twenty-five acres. We have one, and any feathers I returned to nature would end up in somebody else’s yard. Second, I kept thinking about the woman who’d put so much into making this bed for her family. I couldn’t destroy it and I wouldn’t trash it, but I had to get rid of it.

Enter the thinking cap. Who on earth, I asked myself, would want a 150-year-old featherbed?

Aha! The Goat belongs to a historical group that re-enacts battles, and he put the word out to his buddies. I questioned the sanity of any over-the-hill pretend soldier who’d add forty pounds of anything to the stuff he already had to lug around to his various playgroups, but I was desperate enough to give it a try.

None of them bit, but that idea led to another. Would a living history museum like it? That led to Pioneer Village in Gonzales, Texas, not twenty miles from where I grew up. A couple of emails later, the Goat and I made a quick trip to the little town, where the living history lady fed us lunch in exchange for my great-great-grandmother’s featherbed. She was delighted with the monster, and she told me she already had a place for it in one of the village’s restored houses.

After so many years resenting it, I was surprised at my sadness at letting the monster go, and before the new owner took it away in the backseat of her SUV, I leaned into its mustiness, hugged it, and kissed it goodbye. The lady laughed at me and told me I couldn’t have it back. I sneezed and told her I didn’t want it but that I’d come visit it sometimes.

And I will, just as soon as I finish cleaning that closet!