Bed-Making Memories – March 22, 2023

Covering the bed with the duvet is an easy matter after the boomeranging back and forth of fighting the fitted sheets over the deep-pocketed mattress and running back and forth, side to side, top to bottom, to ensure that all sides are even before trying to tuck everything in evenly has been achieved. A perfectly made bed is an art, I’ve always believed, and it only happens once each bedding cycle, that first time you make the bed up with clean bedding; otherwise, at my house, it probably just gets pulled up to the top and maybe smoothed out just a bit on the best of days, not truly made up again until the next time I make the bed up from scratch, straight from the laundromat.

That is not how I was taught to make up my bed, however. The origins of bed-making lessons began for me at a young age, but mostly included helping my mother. As she was typically between marriages when I was of a “bed-making” age, I would help her spread the bed up every morning that we shared in our little house across the creek. And, even though I was young, there were two of us to wrestle with fitted sheets, flat sheets, blankets, quilts, and a bedspread (way before the days of comforters and duvet covers).

Her methods echoed my grandmother’s, which I also knew well. Everything had to be done perfectly when we lived with my grandparents: Mamaw demanded perfectly-made beds, just as she demanded a spotless house, spotless dishes (never any dirty in the sink), and freshly-laundered clothes that were put away as soon as they were washed (which was precisely after they were washed with Tide and all-temperature Cheer). In addition to the perfect lengths of sheets on all sides before being tucked in on three sides, the sheets and blankets and quilts under the mattress of Mamaw’s bed-making routine demanded that the pillows be taken up, rolled in half longways (letting them rest on the lip of a section of downward-turned bedspread), and then gingerly pulling up that excess to cover the pillows, just so. The material must cover the pillows completely, but also leave an adequate crease line under the bottom of the pillow line, to give it an air of perfection. All while the bedspread hung evenly on all three sides of the bed.

And no one sat on the bed to do homework or to listen to the radio, or to play Barbie dolls, or such foolishness. No one was to get on any bed again until nighttime, after showers or baths, when it was again time to go to sleep for the night. Heaven help the little girl who accidently left an errant pencil and pad of paper or a Barbie doll accessory as evidence that she had been on the bed. Although Mamaw always knew. It was impossible to smooth out the wrinkles, even from merely sitting securely in one spot, well enough to fool her; she knew when her beds had been abused by daytime use, and not used for their true purpose. “We have chairs and floors for sitting,” she would tell all of us,” even Papaw, when he dared go to the back master bedroom and lie down to take a nap on the king-sized bed with the lime velvet headboard that hung behind their bed that I adored running my fingers across when I would sneak back there to take a nap with him because I couldn’t seem to get out of Mamaw’s way in any other room of the house. She would start fussing at us and he would just make a face, stick out his tongue, and wave his hand at her, telling her to go worry about something else, like her what-nots, which usually got me in trouble, too, because having shelves and shelves of what-nots in a house with a pre-school aged little girl is an awfully big temptation when they all seem like play-pretties for little hands the perfect size the grasp them and move them about. But he usually found a way of getting me out of trouble with those, too, just because he was my Papaw, and he was my buddy. He also taught me the art of taking one hand in a wide arc to the wrinkled bedspread, to wipe away the evidence of where your body had been. As I grew older, and my hands got bigger, I became better at it. As a child, he would help me when I came running to ask for assistance if I had used the bed for something during the daytime. Mamaw was a stickler for the rules. Every rule. And there were too many to count, really. Papaw helped me navigate them. I was never allowed to make a face, stick out my tongue, and wave her away (although he assured me it was okay to do so in my head), because doing so would show disrespect for her. I’ve always said that living under those conditions is why I’m the housekeeper that I am, and not the housekeeper that she and my mother were. Also, thank God for the advent and staying power of the comforter, which put all of that formality mostly to rest by the time I got to college!