Did you make your bed this morning? Do you have an attachment to your bed which causes you to look at it as your safe zone, safe haven, safe harbor? How would you describe your bed to someone who’d never seen it or been in it?

Over the past seven years we’ve entertained many overnight guests and we’ve noticed that very few of them, as in less than five percent, make their bed. This is puzzling to grownups whose parents taught them to always make the bed period, anytime, anywhere and especially if you are a guest in someone’s home. My qualitative mind is wondering, is this evidence of a mobile millennial culture that holds little regard for their bed as a sacred, rooted space? How do people under 30 think about their beds? At the end of a long day, my husband and I let loose a contented sigh as we settle in and one of us whispers, “Ahh, we made it back.” The cares of the day set aside. 

I grew up sleeping in the first bed my parents bought when they married— a green, double canopy bed. It’s the first bed that Ted and I slept in together, (read last week’s post to find out about Ted.) After my parents said, “goodnight,” my brother and I would play tag on it, the equivalent of the playground game, “Man on Woodchips.” We would chase each other around the posts, leaning out as far as possible without ever touching each other or the floor. We didn’t have air- conditioning and I remember falling asleep sweaty from our bedtime romps.

Painted this oil painting of my childhood bedroom when I was 10?

When I got married, it became our first bed. We ditched the canopy after I decided to cover it in grapevines and bird nests. Charlie grew tired of waking up with bark and twig fragments in the sheets so it became a four poster bed. Our children climbed up with their stockings each Christmas morning and we opened up their gifts (whoopie cushions, kazoos), crammed together on the bed. When they were little, we played “soccer barbies” with our daughter’s tiny dolls, molding the comforter into an apartment building where they all lived their miniature grown-up lives.

Later in life, my dad bought this “cathedral window” stitched quilt from a quilter in Arkansas. I’m not a quilter, but I do appreciate the hand-work that’s gone into each intricate patch and the years of collecting fabrics that make them. It’s a quilt worth studying. Era’s of style and color are represented, the 60’s psychedelic fabrics line up next to the 50’s cotton calico apron fabrics that the quilter’s grandmother probably wore. We sleep under the story of this country quilter’s life. A single decorative pillow from my college roommate speaks, “A bouquet of Love and Friendship” with a teapot of pansies in the center. I think of her every time we make the bed.

Wish I knew the woman who made this quilt so I could thank her!

All of this adds up to a reflective ritual with a dose of discipline. The bed means something to us so we make it and look forward to our return knowing we prepared the way for another night’s sleep when we accomplished the first task of the day. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed,” U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven shared in a speech at a U. of Texas commencement, “If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” he said. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

On a broader platitude, perhaps making the bed suggests the value we as a culture place on rest. We don’t just flop down anywhere and take a nap, unless we’re a toddler crashed out on sugar, strung out by the holiday season. We rest and perhaps rest best when the place has been prepared for us. My husband and I love Holiday Inn Express because of their beds. Those beds are so comfy, the sheets tucked in just right, the four pillows marked with “soft” and “firm.” Even if we accidentally book a smoking room instead of non-smoking we’re going to sleep well, just because of those beds. 

In this Advent week of rushing around finalizing holiday preparations, think about His bed. A manger bed, fluffed with straw or a shawl arranged on the ground prepared for him. It wasn’t Holiday Inn Express pillows and 300 thread count sheets, but it was a simple bed prepared for the King of Kings. Prepare the way, make your bed.

Caravaggio’s Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawerence

Part three in a four part Advent series on the tangible and intangible things in life that last.