Intersections – The Unmade Bed
By Nicki Salcedo, contributor
How do you keep something clean? You don’t care if it gets dirty.
I recently took a picture of my three-year-old in an ivory color knit dress. It was a momentous occasion because it’s a dress all three of my girls have worn. There are seven years, and a brother, between these little ladies. Keeping anything that long or that clean takes skill. The dress looks brand new.
A friend asked me how I keep things clean. That’s funny, because my life is a mess. She was focused on the ivory dress and my wild child crawling around on the daycare floor.
“I don’t care if it gets dirty,” I told her. This is true. My kids wear Easter dresses on any random day of the week. We go to the park as often in jeans as we do in sequins. Nothing is sacred. We don’t control the chaos and the dirt anymore.
I grew up in a very clean house. My parents made their bed every day. Each morning, my mom would grab one end of the sheet and my dad the other. They tucked in the sheet and pulled up the covers. They’d use their hands like irons to flatten everything into its proper place. If one parent or the other was absent, the bed was still made. Every day.
I didn’t make my bed as a kid or a teen, but I made it in college. There was no room for an unmade bed. A little chaos took up a lot of space. I kept that habit into my early adulthood. I kept that apartment in Redwood City, California really clean. I kept that apartment in Buckhead spotless. I’m the person who likes hotel bed sheets tucked in tightly. I like to sleep perfectly swaddled.
I’ve been told it is important to make your bed every day. This habit will endow me with qualities like a sense of accomplishment and order and stability. I like a made bed. The memory of my parents making their bed is one of my happiest memories of them. They were thoughtful in how they raised me. The bed was not a symbol of perfection, but perseverance. I love that.
I start the night in order, but when I wake there is disorder. Sometimes I keep my bed unmade, and I like that too.
I don’t sleep well. I don’t sit still. I have to learn to slow down. Since I became a mother, since my dad died, I some days crawl into my unmade bed for five minutes of quiet. I wouldn’t dare crawl in a made bed until bedtime. The unmade bed invites me back at odd hours.
There are virtues in an unmade bed.
I find children in my bed. During the day, they climb in with a book or a baby doll. One morning, I woke up and realized I slept all night on a LEGO.
I begin and end my day in the same tangled, swirling mess. I like tucking and swaddling myself in only to be unbound by morning.
I might stop in the middle of a terrible stressful moment and collapse in the bed. It is a bed where I can stop and breathe and cry.
A made bed, a spread bed, is a device. Like a can opener or a chair. It has a purpose. An unmade bed is a nest. I have stopped for a five minute cry, climbed into my bed and instead of crying, found myself smiling. The sheet is twisted to one side, I am underneath double the blankets. Life becomes funny and insignificant. I am smiling in my unmade bed.
My bed is made some days, but not all. I asked my sisters, the two who witnessed the ritual of my parents. One always makes her bed. The other never. I’m the one in between. I don’t care if it is made or not. I don’t mind if the ivory dress gets dirty. I don’t care if my kids climb trees dressed in sequins.
I’d rather the virtue of crying or smiling over the sense of accomplishment. I might not accomplish anything in this life anyway.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.