Our eldest grandson spent the past week with us.  We enjoyed his visit, spending lots of time biking, talking, card playing and eating copious amounts of ice cream.  He learned how to do speed stacking and displayed his skill at cubing with a close friend of mine.  While his visit was delightful, the one thing I noticed was that while the young man was with us, his bed was never made.  Not once. 

Did you make your bed as a child?  Some of my friends said their mom made the bed after they left for school!  Another friend announced that she and her siblings made their beds every morning, military style. Argh. Some reported making a half furtive effort and calling it good enough.  As for me, like my grandson, I pretty much ignored it.   

As far back as I can remember, we were supposed to make our beds.  However, Mom worked in an office full time.  She got me up every morning with, “Susan, it’s time to get up.  I have to leave in a half hour and you are still in bed!”  

My brother was usually up early, but I clung to my warm cozy covers like a cat sitting next to the fireplace.  I just didn’t move until it was my final option.  Mom made sure we were ready for school before she left for work and we were responsible to get ourselves out the door 30 minutes later when we walked six blocks to school.  In case you are thinking that was irresponsible parenting, we had renters in the basement who kept an eye on us until we left for school. Nevertheless, since Mom wasn’t home to supervise “Bed-making 101,” I simply didn’t do it! 

As a kid, I could blissfully ignore most things. The bed being unmade was not an issue for me, if not for Mom.  I remember once my bed fell off the frame on one corner and lay cattywampus in the room.  I ignored the problem for days and continued to sleep on it.  Mom couldn’t believe I never said anything.  I told her it didn’t bother me.  

“Well for Pete’s sake,” she declared, “you can’t sleep in the bed like that!”  

Dad was dispatched to the scene and my bed was fixed in a hurry. 

Mom worked every weekday and by the time she came home there was no sense in making the bed because I’d be climbing back into it in about three hours, so why bother?  On Saturday, however, beds were either stripped and put in the wash or made up like civilized people. Mom could not abide a messy room or an unmade bed.  Our sheets were washed every other week whether they needed it or not.  Then we had to make them correctly.  Mom taught me how to make square corners on the sheets, then fold them back and create smooth diagonals at the corners. I don’t know how or when Mom learned how to make beds like that.  Her mom was really fussy, but Dad was in the Army, and our beds appeared Army approved by the time we were done with them.   

When I went to camp, beds were inspected every day so we had to accomplish that first task daily. Our cabin never won the competition for the tidiest cabin, but oh well, at least the beds were made.  What more could a kid do?

When I went to college, I had an apartment with three other co-eds.  They all made their beds, so I caved to peer pressure and started making my bed every day.  It was great training for when I had my own place, the habit had been firmly established.  I made my bed every day since those first challenging college days.   

Years later, Mom showed me a little trick to getting the bedspread on correctly.  A safety pin attached to the center of the bottom of her bedspread helped her determine how to set it up so she could simply pull up the sheet and blanket, give the spread a quick shake, and it would land right smack dab in the center of the bed.  For years I laughed behind Mom’s OCD back until recently.  Our new bedspread is a solid color, with no designs that help gauge how it should sit on the mattress.  The solution to the problem was simple.  A safety pin at the center of the bottom of the spread marks the middle.  If I line it up, I can shake the quilt out over the bed and it lands very close to correct every time.  Now my husband teases me behind my OCD back.

Like my grandson, I did not make my bed every day when I was a child, but I eventually learned it was important for no other reason than to save face.  But apparently there is more to it than that.  A few days ago, my friend showed me the following YouTube video.  According to U.S. NavyAdmiral William H. McRaven, Life Lesson No. 1 is “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.  He maintains that by making your bed you will have accomplished the first task of the day and it will give you a small sense of pride. It will reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter.  If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.  In 2014 he gave this inspiring speech at Texas A & M University: youtube.com/watch?v=GmFwRkl-TTc

I encourage you to listen to his message, and then, if you haven’t already done it, make your bed.

Sue Wilken is a lifelong resident of Fergus Falls. Her column appears in the weekend edition.

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