A bed is such a simple thing that many of us take for granted that we will have a warm and safe place on which to rest our weary bodies each night. It hasn’t always been so, and for some it remains a luxury.
My mom used to speak of her sleeping arrangement when she was a girl. She and her three sisters shared a single full size bed, as did her four brothers. I sometimes think that I don’t have enough room on a queen bed with only my husband taking some of the space. I can’t even imagine how cramped it must have been to be crammed together with three other people, especially as they began to grow. I suppose that we adapt to whatever situation we have, but such living arrangements seem horrible to me.
I’ve had students whose only wish was to have beds of their own. One boy made horrific grades and fell asleep in most of his classes. When I quizzed him as to why he didn’t get more sleep at night he reluctantly admitted that his bed was the living room sofa. He further revealed that he had to wait until all of his family members were ready to slumber before the couch became his own. He noted that on most evenings someone was still using what should have been his bed until two or three in the morning. When I asked why he didn’t either use a vacant bed or ask the persons who were hogging his space to leave, he claimed that nobody would have agreed to an alternate plane. They just expected him to wait until they were finished using his resting place. He insisted that his situation really wasn’t that bad.
I’ve heard of babies sleeping in dresser drawers and youngsters lying on the floor with only a blanket and a pillow. It seems that there are more people enduring discomfort while they dream than I had ever realized. Of course as we travel around the world we find that many cultures use only mats for resting and some families sleep under the stars each night.
Our ancestors often slumbered in a communal room on the floor along with the family animals. If they were lucky they had a bit of clean straw to ease their bones, but often they dreamed right next to the earthen floor. The wealthy had bed frames with ropes stretched across to hold a kind of cloth envelope of straw or down. It took a very long time to collect enough feathers from the ducks and the geese to make a comfy mattress.Those with such luxuries were indeed quite fortunate.
Now we have all sorts of mattresses designed for the needs of virtually every body type, and some that adjust to conform to anyone who happens to lie down. We use sheets with so much thread that they are like soft butter on our skin. We have a variety of pillows and even play ambient sounds to hasten our sleep. Still there are those who toss and turn in a state of insomnia that ultimately requires the use of sleep aides, music or meditation. We generally have some of the most comfortable sleeping arrangements in the history of humankind and yet we are often filled with anxieties that rob us of the slumbers that we need.
There is something so very personal about a bed. It is akin to a pair of shoes, fitted to the contours of specific people with specific needs. We think of our beds as a kind of refuge, but for some people unspeakable horrors occur in beds. There is an irony that some of the most egregious crimes take place in what should be the sanctity of a bed. It’s difficult to think of a bed as an instrument of horror.
I have had students who had beds but chose instead to sleep on the floor lest a stray bullet find its way through the walls and into their bodies. It always made me cry to think of young people dealing with fears that nobody should ever experience. I always worried about those kids who were so tired that they were unable to keep from nodding off by the middle of the school day. There were certainly those who simply chose to play video games or send communications to friends on their phones all night, but some of them truly did not have a decent place to sleep or they were even afraid to sleep.
Many of us decorate our beds and the rooms where they stand. Our choices of color and fabric speak volumes about who we are and what our sleep means to us. A bedroom is a place where we are generally truly ourselves. What is there or not there tells a short story about us and the kind of existence that we enjoy or from which we hope to flee. Whatever the case we humans tend to adapt to our circumstances. My mom laughingly spoke of the routine that she and her sisters developed so that everyone would be comfortable in their tiny bed. They learned how to sleep in the same direction and turn in tandem at regular intervals. She maintained that she never had a complaint nor missed a night of blissful sleep, but she did appreciate the extra room when her eldest sister got married.
Now that I think about it, I feel that my own bed is a great treasure, a kind of blessing for me. I suppose that I need to be more thankful when when lay down my head, pull up the covers, and ask Alexa to turn out the lights. I sleep like a king. I am indeed fortunate.