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Sheets

Who taught you how to make a bed?



It is laundry day here at my house. As I sit here waiting for my sheets to be dried, I think back to my early childhood and getting to stay at grandma's house. I would help her with her housework and with chores. Part of which was laundry day, which, of course, included changing the sheets. Grandma enlisted my help in stripping the bed, removing the pillowcases, and half carrying, half dragging the sheets into the laundry room. If grandma wasn’t watching the fitted sheet went over my head and I pretended I was wearing a great veil over my pretend fancy dress that trailed back to encompass my royalty. Going quickly around corners was not possible in the small ranch home but I learned quickly to flick my finery out of the way. Once grandma had rescued her sheets from my five-year-old self, she’d wash and dry them and make sure that I didn’t wear them back to the bedroom. One thing to note is that grandma always had two sets of sheets. One to wash, and one fresh and ready to put onto the bed that minute. Once she had the dirty sheets rescued from me, and safely stashed into the washer, we’d head back to the bedroom and we’d pull out the fitted sheet, placing it tightly into the bed, and then we’d pull out the flat sheet. After careful - VERY careful eyeball measurements to make sure there was equal sheet fall on either side of the bed, and she’d made sure there was enough sheet to fold at the top of the bed, so that the pretty lace would show, and we’d place one of her pretty blankets on top. She would again eyeball the bed to make sure the blanket was equal on both sides. I got ready to plunge my tiny hands in to shove the sheet and blanket in between the mattress. Grandma said “Wait, now let me show you how to do this!” Shoving the fabric in the crevice is not how it was to be done. Grandma was nothing if not methodical. Lifting one side of the mattress, she tucked that half of the sheet and blanket in, making sure it was flat and straight, then she tucked the other half. I grabbed those corners that were dragging and prepared to squish them under the mattress when grandma stopped me and pulled the sheets back straight. No, you take this part, fold it up parallel with the mattress and tuck the “tail” in. Flat. Grandma explained that the sheets, and blanket should be so tight and flat that you can bounce a quarter off the bed. I, naturally, wanted a quarter to give this a try. Grandma obligingly got the quarter, and we bounced it all over the place. Once I was satisfied and grandma was tired of chasing the quarter, we pulled the bedspread onto the bed, again eyeballing for that perfect 1/4” off the floor. I didn’t know that measurement when I was 5, time and experience has taught me exactly that measurement. We made it the old-fashioned way. Grandma liked feather pillows, so we made the pillow tuck at the top of the bed. Once the pillows were precisely lined up on said pillow tuck, we karate chopped the middle making a fold in the pillow, well, Grandma did not karate chop, but I did! Her movements were a little less abrupt, I am sure. Bringing the bedspread end to the divot in the pillow, we rolled the pillows into place, making a true jelly roll type thing at the top of the bed. We then completed the early 70s look with extremely hard pillows that no one in their right mind would want to lay on because they were fancy and incredibly uncomfortable, but beautiful in grandma's eyes. This was also the era of short windows and so for window decor, grandma used short drapery. Looking back, it was a funny almost bougie solution that my very fancy grandma who wore leather driving gloves and had perfect hair and shoes at all times bought all the way into, but I digress. (The drapes were all mushroom-y green.)

Once the sheets in the washer were switched over to the dryer, they were never ever left in that dryer! They were removed immediately, folded and put away, including the fitted sheet. Grandma showed me how to catch the corners and lay the sheet flat on the kitchen table, making it into a square that you could fold easily into a small rectangle exactly matching the size that she and I had folded the flat sheet, well mostly she, but I tried to help! This preserved the flatness, so the sheets didn’t have to be ironed grandma explained. To this day, I wonder why would you iron a sheet? I am a product of my generation, and she very much of hers. One thing that does stand out in my mind from even that young age, and also from inheriting some of those sheets, is grandma bought quality. They weren’t the most expensive, but they were good ones that made you want to slide in bed right in the middle between her and papa to watch Johnny Carson before you were shooed off to bed to climb into a beautiful bed with red and white polka dot bedding that grandma had picked out just for your night at her house.


It has been a year today that Grandma passed. She is still so missed, and still inspires so much of what I do and think about every day

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My mother always hung the wet laundry on the outside to air-dry. She never folded a sheet OVER the clothesline. We would gather both end hems and pin them to the clothes line with clothes pins. The dry sheets were easy to take off that way. Towels were hung the same way… never folded over the clothes line.


We also used “pant stretchers” to put inside Daddy’s casual khaki pants. When they dried, they were stiff enough to stand up on their own.


My mother never told me how to do things. She just included me and I learned by example.


Judy Cross


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