Monday, November 7, 2011

the marriage bed

Growing up, I always shared a room with my sister.  We had beds that converted from bunk, to trundle, to side by side twin beds.  Vix was a good roommate.  We respected each other's space, and had a good relationship.

Why am I telling you that?  Because the day I was married, all that changed.  I stepped into a strange land of cohabitation that after 41 years still requires getting adjusted to.  I am not talking about Stevie Wonder, the man I married, except in the sense of the physical space he occupies.
our fake wedding photo, Reno, Nevada, 1970
I am talking about the marriage bed.  No one prepares you for that when you get married.  They talk about relationships, and getting along, and maybe even your sex life, to prepare you.  But they don't tell you about the bed.  What it is like to lay next to another human being as you sleep, and share the same space that they occupy.

I was in shock on our wedding night.  We got a room in a cheap motel that had a double bed in it.  It felt strange sleeping in a double bed.  The first night I didn't get much sleep.  We were 4 feet from the ice machine outside, and it cranked out a load of ice about once an hour, making a loud racket when it did.  And if the machine wasn't cranking out ice, then someone was slamming the door on it open and rattling around filling the cheap plastic ice bucket that cheap motels provide.

Then there was the fact that I had to decide how much of the bed was mine.  I suddenly realized that for the rest of my life, the physical space in the bed would literally be only half mine.  It was a strange concept, and added to my trouble sleeping that night.  We made it through.  Barely.

Over the years we have had some strange beds.  It started with the first bed in our walk up apartment.  Mom had short-sheeted the bed while we were in Reno, Nevada getting married.  And we discovered that the slats under the bed tended to get sideways and the bed would fall, usually in the middle of the night while we were sound asleep.  The neighbors probably thought there were some pretty active shenanigans going on upstairs, but they never said a word about it to us.  And we never got the bed fixed because we were only there for a few short months.  We developed a little routine.  Bed falls, we get up, lift the mattress and box springs and replace the fallen slat.  Back into bed.  It went smoothly, actually.

There have been hard beds, soft beds, beds that crackled with every turn (cheap mattress), and beds that were comfortable enough that I thought I could sleep in them forever and never get up.  I don't know how many beds we've been through over the years.  But we finally graduated, years ago, to a king size bed.  Steve may think he is the king of the castle, but that bed is big so that I can dodge him when he flails in his sleep and smacks me in the head with his hand.  The first time Steve smacked me like that, I accused him of hitting me, but I have learned over the years that he is a violent sleeper, and often moves suddenly.  He also strips pillow cases off in his sleep as he moves, and quite frequently strips the sheets off the corners of the bed on his side.  That also took me a while to get used to.

When I think of what has happened with our beds over the years, I am often reminded of the episode of I Love Lucy when the Ricardos swap beds with the Mertzes because the double bed they have has a deep sink hole in the middle.  Ethel pulls Fred off the bunk bed he is on and shoves him in the double bed, pinning him to the bed frame facing the wall and then climbs in and goes to sleep.  That is what a true marriage is.  Knowing what your partner needs to sleep.

I was watching television the other night and Stevie Wonder called to me from the bedroom.  I wondered what he was up to as I walked in.  There on the bed on a mattress we paid way too much for (that feels like sleeping on a rock), was a new 2 1/2 inch memory foam overlay, and  new powder blue sheets made of soft polished cotton.

He really does love me, this stranger in my bed.

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie
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