While waiting at the dentist’s office this week, I read an article called “Happy Habit: Make Your Bed” but Jackie Ashton. In the article, Ms Ashton admits to hating to make her bed and resolves to amend her ways, explaining how this daily chore sets the stage for a more orderly and productive day. Her catch phrase, “messy bed, messy head” spoke a resounding truth to me, for I am a bed Nazi.
I’m not sure where it began, but I think I can blame my mother for my obsession with a neat bed. It was my mother’s expectation that our beds be made before we left for school in the morning, and I, being one of the eldest of the clan, had to set an example for my six younger siblings.
Without fail, at 30 Green Street, every Saturday morning all beds were stripped and all sheets washed. My mother hung them on the clothes lines, where they would flap in the breezes of the backyard until they were dry, to be carefully returned to the beds before the youngest child’s bedtime. The ritual did not stop there, however. When Saturday evening came, all heads were shampooed and all nails trimmed, and by nightfall, every child was scrubbed and shiny, clad in clean pajamas and tucked between smooth percale sheets that smelled of fresh air and sunshine.
I was a teenager before we had contour sheets for our beds. My father, who had been in the Navy, taught us to make square corners from flat sheets, showing us that sheets on a well-made bed would endure several nights of slumber before coming un-tucked. We often paired up in teams of two to make beds on Saturday afternoons, and my sister Robin and I devised ways to make the chore more enjoyable. Making beds for ten people could be a daunting task, but our games made the work less mundane. We bent back the mattresses and pretended they were horses while we jumped on the bed springs. We folded blankets like flags, creating tidy wool triangles that sat on the sheets until it was time to unfold them and tuck them under at the foot. We tried flipping coins on our freshly made beds, in hopes that they would be as taut as those in the military barracks my father had described.
The real test of our bed-making skills came when my mother came to our beds to hear our prayers and tuck us in. A poorly made bed would result in a “tsk tsk” as my mother smoothed the sheets and refolded the square corners. She would unscrew the handle on the steaming radiator to turn off the heat, and prop the window open a few inches- even if the night skies were filled with snowflakes. She would sit on the side of the bed, stroke our heads and listen to our vespers, then with a kiss the cheek, she would tuck in the sides of our covers so tightly it was almost impossible to roll over. The ritual worked. It took me moments to enter dreamland, and I never woke until morning.
It is probably because of my childhood that I am so obsessive about my bed. Every morning, as soon as I have showered, I make my bed. I do not remember a time when I have left it rumpled from the last night’s sleep. I hate when people sit or lie on my bed during the day, but I tolerate it, knowing that having my kids flop on my mattress for a heart to heart talk is more important that how my bed looks.
But when it is time for bed, the rules must be followed. The bottom sheet has to be wrinkle free. The top sheet has to be neatly pulled up to my chin and carefully folded over the end of my comforter. My pillows must be plumped, smooth and cool. And truth be told, during the winter I am known to open the windows just a crack, even if the snow falls from the night skies.
I have thought about my bed making rituals many times. Perhaps it is to bring order to the chaos of the day. Perhaps it is to prove to myself that although I cannot control the entire world, I can control mine. At least a little bit. Perhaps it is just a way to pay homage to my parents, who gave me years of peaceful dreams in a little house with too many kids.
Ms Ashton, I am happy you have joined the ranks of the bed-making brigade. Now, let’s talk about the towels on the bathroom floor…