The home I grew up in is much older than my dad who turned 80 this summer. A small farmhouse, it has exactly two and half bedrooms. There were six children raised there.
Ponder that for just a moment before you continue reading – or here’s a visual to help you along:
Family of 8 > 2.5 Bedrooms
You can assume correctly that one bedroom was/is my mom and dad’s. It’s on the main floor. It just might be 10×12 feet. Room barely enough for a full-sized bed, a vanity dresser, a tall dresser and the crib. No closet. No wardrobe.
The largest bedroom was upstairs. It has one full wall full of sliding door closets that were totally kludged into the sloped-ceilinged room. But when you have five girls, you need all the closet space you can get. Growing up, we had a set of bunk-beds and a full-sized bed and two dressers in there.
And then there’s the half bedroom. I’m sure you’ve heard of half-baths, which are generally bathrooms with a sink, toilet and stand-in shower – if there’s a shower in it at all. Basically, it’s a room designed for one purpose, and one purpose only: Number 1 and Number 2. Well, the half bedroom is designed (and I use the term “design” very, very loosely) to fulfill its purpose: to sleep. A twin sized bed takes up one wall. The door into it and a dresser take up the other wall. If the door is open, you can fall out of bed and into the hallway. It’s that damn small. If you fail to shut your dresser drawers, and sit up in bed, you could hit your knees on the drawers. Not only is it tiny, but the ceiling over the bed is sloped. Too high of a mattress on top of a big box spring and you would potentially wake up with a concussion. Despite its obvious special flaws, it was the bedroom of the oldest child, a space to themselves.
There were never more four children in the house that shared those two bedrooms. Briefly, there was a time when there were five children living in the house, but the youngest was still in the crib (that would be me, child number 5). By the time I was moved to the bedroom upstairs, which had to have been when I was pretty young since there are 22 months between myself and my little sister, the oldest had left for college. And by the time the youngest was moved out of the crib, the second oldest was in college and the third about to spread her wings as well.
But during that time when there were four girls in the house, in the winter you could find at least three of us in that one full-sized bed. We might have even drawn straws to determine who would have to be the first under the covers as that person was responsible for warming the bed in the winter. Did I fail to mention there was no heat or AC upstairs? If it got REALLY cold, mom would lug up the space heater, which was the size of a suitcase.
Some mornings the room would be so cold we would wake up and lie in bed and pretend to blow smoke rings, our breath easily visible. There was no need for anyone to yell at us to hurry up, get dressed and get downstairs.
I’m sharing this with you because last night as I was tucking my son in, wishing him one more Happy Birthday; he burrowed into his blankets and pillow, murmuring how comfy his bed was. I realized I didn’t have any flannel sheets for his bed. I remember mom upstairs with us when Autumn had her firm foothold in the fields, pulling down the “kitty sheets” from the shelves in those huge closets. Flannel fitted sheets so threadbare, you could see through them. As kids, we didn’t know better, we just enjoyed the knowledge that one of us wouldn’t have to hold our breaths quite as long that night if they drew the short straw.
This Christmas I will get Doodicus a set of flannel sheets and will promise myself to always refer to them as kitty sheets so my son will have a story to share with his children some day in the distant future. We focus so much on what tomorrow will bring, and the day after…I don’t believe in what’s past is past. Some days I enjoy remembering when life was so very simple, especially when each day I wake up with my sense of bearing off kilter. I’m adrift right now, but there was a time I wasn’t. Some days, like today, I need to remember how it felt when my feet tread familiar and solid ground.