I made the bed

by Lorin Michel Saturday, August 26, 2017 7:58 PM

I made the bed this morning. This is something I do every morning without fail. I get up, pull on some clothes and pull up the sheets and the comforter. I walk into the bathroom and begin the three-trip task of retrieving the additional pillows: shams the same color as the comforter, European shams in taupe, and three throw pillows. A made bed feels neater to me, makes me feel as if the day has officially begun. I blame my mother, and a touch of OCD. My mother was a stickler for a made bed. As kids, they had to be made before we went to school in the morning. I may have rebelled a bit in college but I don’t think so. It became habit, one that stuck with me and my brother. My sister is not as much a stickler. Sometimes I envy that. 

Perhaps it’s also a control thing. After the Northridge earthquake in January, 1994, the first thing I did was make my bed. I learned later that I wasn’t the only one. The quake struck at 4:30 in the morning, the darkest part of night. It shook the city, and each individual home; seemed to shake the world. I stood in the doorjamb between my bedroom and bath on the second floor, gripping the sides and listening to the roar and the crash, the violence of breaking glass. When it was over, I looked at the clock and as if to reassure myself, said out loud that “it couldn’t have been that bad. We still have power.” The numbers on my clock were glowing red in the darkness. Then there was a loud pop as transformers blew in unison and everything went black. I knew my house was in shambles; I knew that what awaited me downstairs was a sea of glass and the contents of bottles splashed and strewn across the floor. But it was dark. I couldn’t see to clean that up. The only thing I could do to seem like I was OK, like I was making progress, like I was still in control of my life was to make the bed. 

One of the other things I learned from my mother was to always make the bed first when moving into a new place. That way, after spending a day moving and then unpacking, when it comes time for bed, when you’ve reached peak exhaustion, the bed is ready and waiting. It seems logical – I suppose many others do it as well. But it has stuck with me and I tried to impress that upon Justin, too. 

Yesterday, Shawn moved into her dorm at the University of New Hampshire. My sister posted photos on Facebook of Shawn sitting on her made bed. I don’t know if she’s a bed maker. She’s a college student and a teen so she’s probably not especially neat; most people aren’t in college. She probably will wash her sheets only when they get gritty and smelly, maybe once a month if the sheets are lucky. But for yesterday and for last night she had a clean bed with crisp sheets made up nice and neat.

Making the bed makes sense of a nonsensical world. In these nonsensical times, it helps me to believe that I can maintain a little control, a little bit of say, the smallest bit of honor and order in a country that daily careens toward oblivion and irrelevance. I wrote the other day, asking how much longer this can go on. I fear the answer. I fear that the divide being created, indeed nurtured and coddled from the oval office – the oval office – is one that will not soon go away, will be hard to tame and soothe. We are spiraling and there is a part of the country that thinks that’s good and that terrifies me. There are people who cheer the pardoning of a convicted law enforcement officer, who believe that people of different color, religion, sexual orientation, and sexual identity are to be feared. Worse, ostracized, demonized. There are those who believe that they and they alone are right and just and those who think differently be damned, and in the toddler they have found a champion. I fear for who we are fast becoming.

And so today I made the bed. I pulled the comforter taut and smoothed the wrinkles. I arranged the pillows and as I often do, I stopped to look at how pretty it looked against the newly painted wall behind. For just a few minutes, I controlled destiny.

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