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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

I was almost going to buy a Christmas table runner. I bought one for Thanksgiving and it looked very pretty. So I had a moment of optimism thinking I could replicate that for a second holiday.

And then I looked at the table, covered in my paints and Ralph’s gadgets and half a dozen books and two plants and three bowls and a placemat, the extra lamp I stuck there so I can see when I really want to, a couple of candles, three days’ worth of mail and the Apple speaker.

The table easily seats six but some days we eat on the couch because there isn’t even room for two.

I decided to skip the table runner.

Besides, it would come folded up and creased, and that’s how it would go on the table, reminding me again of my utter lack of domestic skills.

The Thanksgiving runner came folded and creased, but as I ordered it about a day before Thanksgiving, I didn’t have too much time to worry about it. I did, however, lament the fact that if my grandmother were here, she would have yanked it off and ironed it immediately. She could not abide by a wrinkle, that woman.

If I got a Christmas runner, I would have had a couple of weeks to think about it being wrinkled, and that is a long time to be bugged about something. Inevitably the guilt would have driven me to iron it, and I really didn’t want to iron.

Last week when we went to the Whiskey Society dinner, I asked Ralph if he needed a shirt ironed. We both stood there and looked at his shirt hanging in the closet. We smoothed it out a bit. I slapped the collar down. We looked at the shirt some more. We looked at each other.

It looks ok, right?

Yeah, it’s fine.

I did not iron his shirt.

I did, however, reflect on my utter lack of domestic skills. To be fair, it’s less about a lack of skill and more about a lack of desire. There are some things I just don’t want to do. And the more they seem like things you’re “supposed to” do, the less I want to do them.

Take making the bed.

I make the bed once a week, and that is only because I wash the sheets and have to put them back on before sleeping.

This is wholly anathema to how I grew up. I was supposed to make the bed. Whether I did or not is open to interpretation, and I’m sure my mother can say more about that than I can, but I certainly did it more often than I do now.

And if I didn’t, my grandmother did. There was never an unmade bed in her presence.

I had a bedspread and everything, the kind you weren’t supposed to sleep on, because you would wrinkle it. It was there for decoration, as were the pillow shams that had to go on top.

So for the vast majority of my life I either made the bed or let my grandmother have the pleasure. For a long time, she ironed sheets, too.

I suppose the turning point for me was college. I no longer had a bedspread but a comforter. And I no longer had my grandmother on hand, so when I slithered out of bed at 6am after free keg night with the local frat and somehow managed to ambulate myself down to the admin building for classes, making the bed was the last thing on my mind.

Besides, when you had three hours between classes, you were only going to go back to bed anyway.

And therein lies the crux of the problem with making the bed: you are only going to unmake it.

Some will argue that putting your world in order is good for your mind. The routine, the tidiness, the ritual.

But the best I can muster is flinging the comforter up and picking up the extra pillow from the floor where it fell the night before.

I have a complicated relationship with making the bed. I like to sleep in a neat bed, but that is usually solved by tucking things in and straightening my four blankets before I get in at night.

Depending on who steals the covers from whom, they may be all piled up on my side, or all falling off on Ralph’s. Once in a while he complains that he was freezing all night because I took the blankets. Once in a while I complain that he rolled himself into a burrito and left no overhang for me.

We occasionally solve this by putting one blanket on his half and one on mine, which inevitably turns into a giant mess so we have to draw up a truce and resolve to use blankets more thoughtfully.

Then there are the nights when I want to get into bed but forgot I dumped out the laundry there and never folded it. And I’d put it all back into the laundry basket if I could, but that’s full with the next load.

You see how complicated it can get!

At that point the only thing to do is offer up a prayer of forgiveness to grandma and get in bed with the laundry.

Yes, there have been nights when I literally leave the laundry right on top of the bed and go to sleep under it. I mean, it keeps you warm, so look at it as being environmentally conscious and saving electricity.

It works best when the laundry in question is towels, but t-shirts and socks work all right, too.

There is a legend in my family about one day when my grandparents came home to find out they had been robbed. They lived in a two story house with my aunt and uncle and both of them had been hit. Jewelry cleaned out, drawers emptied. My grandmother was distraught. She stood and looked dazedly around my aunt’s bedroom where they had gathered to survey the damage.

The worst part of the crime scene was that my aunt’s bed was unmade. And my grandmother could not believe that my aunt would not have made her bed.

Later it would be discovered that the robbers had stripped the bed and used the pillowcases to carry their ill-gotten bounty.

They had lost so many treasures, yes. But at least nobody could be accused of not making their bed.

I’m a little less worried about my domestic abilities than I was at the beginning of this post. Not only am I environmentally conscious, but I have excellent crime-prevention skills, as well. Nobody trying to rob me would be able to find the jewelry, let alone a pillowcase to carry it.

Maybe I will buy that table runner after all. At this point it will come two days before Christmas and that won’t be nearly enough time for me to worry about ironing it.

Photo: please don’t tell my mother I live this way.