While I’ve previous referred to bed-making on this blog, I don’t think I’ve ever shared
WhiteEyebrows’ History and Philosophy of Bed Making.
I’ll start this blog at the end of the story:
Dear Wifey –
Although you are gone on a business trip today, I made the bed anyway…
But this was not always the case. No sir! My bed making was not always so prolific and consistent. My sheets were not always neatly tucked, nor were my pillows neatly arranged.
The long battle for the bed-making began when I was a small child. In my earliest recollections, I hear the echoes of my Mother’s voice: “Did you make your bed today?” I’m sure, as a child, I infrequently and haphazardly made my bed from time to time. I recall at least one deliberate, absurd family night lesson where we were all ‘instructed’ on how to make a bed. Mom surely tired of making 4 beds each day, and her personal nirvana might have been reached had even a small percentage of her children bothered to make their beds every day.
I even have a recollection of my father instructing us how to make a bed ‘military style’ – so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of it. I have a distinct memory of my brother and I trying to accomplish this once, but resolving that we must have had less-than-ideal sheets or something, as we could never get the covers tight enough for any denomination of coinage to bounce.
By the time I reached adolescence and high-school years, my mother had decidedly lost the making-the-bed battle. She somehow found the energy and persistence to create a daily routine of coming into our rooms after we had left for school and before she left for work; picking up dirty clothes from off of the floor and making our beds behind us. I guess this was simply a battle she chose not to fight, as there were always plenty of others requiring more energy.
Every once in a while, though, my bed went unmade. I remember her asking me to make it, and my consistent response: “Why would I make the bed when I’m just going to get right back into it and mess it up again in [x] hours?” Somehow, she tried to explain how living in a clean house and clean room makes you happier, but I wasn’t buying that argument. After all, my room was generally clean due to her efforts, so how was I to know what living in a pig sty felt like and why would I put in the effort today when I knew she would do it tomorrow?
The only way my mother or father ever got me to make my bed was through come kind of direct reward or punishment. Withholding of dinner or permission to leave the house seem like two key motivators. Guilt worked too, especially when it had been a particularly difficult or tiring day.
Then I left home.
I remember making my bed in college, topped with the beautiful blue quilt my mother and I had tied before I left (OK… she did most of the work, and I watched). I remember the great satisfaction of a clean dorm room and a made bed, which occurred maybe twice that entire semester. I think I caught a glimmer of what a clean, fresh room felt like. And I’m sure I took pictures both times.
All in all, though, the right to keep my bed and room as messy as I wanted was a right I was freely and joyously exercising. No more guilt, coercion, pain, or suffering.
Then I went on a mission.
Missions have rules — a lot of them. And the #1 mission rule is to keep the mission rules. We often discussed how our obedience to the small rules held some kind of direct correlation to your obedience to the big rules (i.e. if you were eating three meals a day, you were probably coming home and leaving in the morning at the appropriate times). Hence, we were always looking for obedience minutia – ways we could demonstrate to God that we would do whatever it took to be blessed and successful as missionaries.
My mission had a lot of unwritten rules. It was more of a culture that my mission president had created through consistent raising of the bar in each zone conference. Monthly, Sister Ellis would stand and encourage us to wash our hands, drink 2-3 liters of water per day, and make our beds.
To reinforce the message, she dealt in currency missionaries could really understand: candy. American candy — solid gold. At the beginning of Zone Conference, she would ask if you made your bed that day, and you were subsequently rewarded. What I didn’t fail to notice was that during each one of these checks, President Ellis was the first to raise his hand and stand up to receive his treat.
President Ellis made the bed.
The image of my missionary role model standing to receive his candy was seared into my memory: men make beds. I already felt like this man walked on water, and this just sent me over the top. To be like President Ellis, I would need to make my bed. More importantly, to demonstrate to God and my fellow mission companions that I was willing to be obedient and receive the blessings from bed-making, I would make my bed.
So, for two years, I made my bed. I was near-perfect in this. I even bounced a several denominations of Brazilian coins off of the bed during this stint of bed-making.
I made my bed for self-interest and out of respect for a leader.
When I returned home, triumphant in my missionary service and in my successful bed making, I did like most missionaries do: completely relapse into a lazy, half-hearted, 20-something year old. I did not make my bed for most of the next 6 years of my life.
Even after I purchased my own money-pit house, I still only made the bed on special occasions, which included the rare overnight guest or house party.
Now, as a married man, I have to confess. I have suddenly felt the urge to make the bed again. I ask myself:
Why is this small item, which was clearly not an issue to me as a youth, a college coed, or a young career man, why is it now such a big deal to me?
I suppose it’s partly an homage to my mother, though I’m not doing it out of fear or coercion.
And it’s surely got something to do with President Ellis, though I’m not doing it out of respect for leadership or self-interest.
I guess it’s actually a small, silly way of showing my wife that I love her.
Yes, I do enjoy a clean house and a clean bedroom, but it’s not about that. I can live in squalor as good as the next Cro-Magnon man. This is just a little something I do that makes me think of her every morning. It’s probably not something that makes the difference between her good day and bad day, but it is something I know that will contribute to her happiness.
Maybe it’s just a little way of saying ‘thank you’ for getting out of bed earlier than me to go to work.
Does my wife notice every time I pick up her bra or make our bed? No. Does she feel the warm fuzzies when her shoes magically make it back into the closet? Probably not. But neither did I for the many years that my mom did it for me. Perhaps this is something that takes years to recognize and appreciate, and perhaps it takes even longer to truly understand why we make beds* in the first place.
So if you’re looking for a way to say “I love you”…
If you want to say, “I’m faithful”…
If your trying to find a way to show that “I’m invested in us.”…
Then look no further than your nearest bed!!
* substitute pretty much any menial, service-oriented activity here… i dare ya