Tales From the Teen Years: The Waterbed

I rarely do these, but today it felt right. The following is my response to The Daily Prompt, because didn’t every girl who grew up in the eighties want a waterbed?

“You absolutely can not have a waterbed, and I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

I had received my father’s ultimatum, and I knew I had pushed him to the brink. It was in my best interest to shut my mouth and move on to something else.

So I did.

A plan of my own and I would not be deterred.

My parents left me alone one Saturday in early fall. My brother was playing in a pony football league and his team was participating in an all-day tournament.

I might not get a more ideal opportunity.

I waited until I could no longer hear the monotonous hum of our faithful Oldsmobile. I had to be certain that the family had not only vacated the premises but were out of our quiet suburban neighborhood.

I stared at the orange-peel ceiling above my bed and mentally mapped out my plan.

I had a Waterpik, king of all water flossers, according to my overly-zealous orthodontist. Check.

I hated that damned thing, but I hated even more that my mother frequently reminded me how much she and my dad were paying for my braces.

“Vivi, honey, did you use the Waterpik? Dr. Shellhouse made it very clear that you were to use it twice a day to keep stains off your teeth. It wasn’t cheap, so make sure you use it.”

Oh I was about to use it alright.

When I was certain that my family wasn’t returning, I headed out to the garage. Our camping supplies were neatly packed away in two large rubber totes in a dark, dusty corner.

I rummaged through lanterns, pots, pans, flashlights, and sleeping bags until I found two air mattresses — deflated and neatly folded at the bottom of the tote.

I carefully selected a long, narrow gray one that I was convinced would fit conspicuously in the bottom of my closet.

I pulled the air mattress out of the garage and into the sunlight, recognizing for the first time that I might not have thought this plan through entirely.

Should I blow it up first?

I definitely needed to remove the dust before I put it on the beige carpet. I quickly found a water hose.

I had to drag the air mattress out to the back deck so I could reach the spigot that housed the hose. Our basset hound, Benton, eyed me cautiously yet unenthusiastically from his cozy spot in the grass.

Benton had witnessed my hair-brained antics before. Too bad he couldn’t talk. Perhaps he could have heeded a warning. Less than a year earlier he had watched as my neighbor, Amanda, and I tried unsuccessfully to dig a lagoon in the back yard. It looked so easy when that stubborn alien, Alf, had done it on TV.

My parents were less than thrilled when I cried defeat leaving a muddy hole right smack in the middle of the yard.

This would be different. I quickly rinsed the dust, found the electric air pump and was on my way. Once the mattress was dust-free and dry, I hauled it inside, careful to avoid knocking over anything in the living area.

I placed the mattress on the floor of my closet and was delighted to discover that it was a perfect fit. I knew I had selected the right one.

I ran down the hall to the bathroom. I could barely contain my enthusiasm. This was going to work! I was ecstatic.

I quickly filled the Waterpik and carried it back down the hall to my bedroom. I poked the plastic pick through the spout on the air mattress and discovered that it worked better than I had anticipated. The only problem was that the water reservoir only held 24 ounces. I was going to be making lots of trips back and forth.

My mind raced. I needed a large bucket, but more than that, I needed patience. This was proving to be more of a process than I ever dreamed.

Back to the garage I went, and fortunately I found a mop bucket that held a few gallons of water — large but manageable.

I grabbed it, ran inside, filled it with water, and set up shop in my bedroom. Using the bucket, I could fill the reservoir several times, which made the process run more efficiently. I wasn’t having to drag the Waterpik up and down the hall. I could leave it in the bedroom and fill it from the bucket. This allowed me to put more water into the mattress at once.

All I can say is thank heavens for an all-day pony league tournament, because I had been at it for hours and my waterbed was barely half-filled. Surprisingly, my determination never waned.

I look back at my thirteen-year-old self and often wonder what happened to that tenacious teen. Granted, my ideas were often whacky, ridiculous and unrealistic, but at that age when I set my mind to something I wholeheartedly believed in myself.

On that sunny October day, I refused to take no for an answer. I wanted a waterbed and I wouldn’t stop until I had one.

It was nearly ten o’clock before my family returned. Every cell in my skinny little body was exhausted, but my mess was cleaned, and all my supplies were returned to their rightful homes.

“And you doubted me, Benton. Should’ve been more faithful and I might have let your smelly ass sleep inside tonight.”

Benton barely moved a muscle, and he might have rolled his saggy eyes.

When my dad popped his head into my room before bed, he didn’t see me at first.

“Vivi!! What on earth are you doing?”

“I’m in the closet!”

“What on God’s green earth are you doing in there?” he yelled before jerking the doors open.

“Just chillin’ in my new waterbed.”

I’ll spare you the ugly details of the day my homemade bed sprung a leak. I’ll spare you further and not get into the ugliness of water-damaged floorboards, new carpet, and mold.

Let’s not think about all that right now.

Let’s give three cheers to the determined thirteen-year-old who sucked the life and patience out of her parents and every teacher who was ever lucky enough to have her in their classroom.

When I’m feeling low and directionless, I think back to the three months that I spent sleeping in my homemade waterbed. As crazy as it sounds, I remember lying awake at night and staring up at my clothes and feeling this unmatched sense of accomplishment — the world was mine, and I believed I could do anything.

Never underestimate a kid who can take a plastic floatation device and an electronic gadget designed to dislodge food from metal orthodontics and use them to create her own version of magic.

16 thoughts on “Tales From the Teen Years: The Waterbed

  1. Pingback: Blogger Recognition Award – this tiny blue house

  2. This cracked me up! LOVE it! I was the same wanting one but it was out of the question. Wasn’t quite as determined evidently… maybe because my best friend had one & I got to sleep on it for regular sleep overs. Still I was ecstatic when my then boyfriend got us one during college. Absolutely loved that thing… right up to when it sprang a leak & the queen sized bed turned into a queen sized threat!


    • Thanks! I was certainly stubborn and strong-willed, but it has served me well in many ways. As luck and genetics would have it, I gave birth to two determined and often trying kids. I’m sure my family gets a kick out of watching me with my two — payback! Gil and I were together for six years before having kids because we were terrified that they’d be just like us. One night early in our marriage we stayed up all night sharing crazy tales from our childhoods. When we were beyond tired, I remember him looking at me and saying, “I think it’s in our best interest to wait a LONG time before having kids.” I’m sure your girl will keep you on your toes. Parenting is many things but it’s never dull!


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