Sunday, December 28, 2003

When I was young, Dad built beds for my brother and I. I grew up dealing with essentially one major piece of furniture in my room: the bed, desk, and dressers are all of a piece, with the bed perched atop the dressers and over the desk. The ensemble is a sturdy monument to my Dad's engineering skills and his love of power tools.

When I was small, my brothers and I used to pretend the bed was a ship -- whether a sea ship or a space ship depended on our mood -- manned by our favorite stuffed animals. I dubbed the game Frog and Other Animals, modestly putting my favorite stuffed animal (a threadbare frog which I creatively named Frog) in a position of prominence over the equally creatively named Bear-Bear and Whale. I doubt Dad intended it this way, but the structure of the bed lent itself perfectly to our play; under the desk was the engineering deck, the middle deck was the bridge, and the top of the bed was the watch deck -- I think. We had a grand time passing orders, information, and Lego constructions of questionable purpose between the decks.

Over the years that I grew into that bed, I refined my technique for entering and exiting it. To get into bed, I would put one foot on my desk, swing my body down and my left leg up, and roll into place. I exited by a similar procedure. By high school, I frequently bypassed the desk when entering or exiting; I jumped instead. I might have tried further variations on the theme, but I was somewhat restricted by the fan and light fixture that jutted perilously close to the edge of the bed. If I jumped into the fan, I figured I risked possible decapitation and almost certain embarrassment, neither of which sounded particularly appealing. I bumped my head against the fan at times despite my cautions, but managed to avoid the more drastic of my theorized fates.

I remember waking up on weekend and summer mornings and spending a lazy time draped over the guard rail on the bed, staring out the window at the play of light and dark in the leaves of the trees. I'd engage in similar contemplation in the winter months, particularly when it snowed, but in such times I usually didn't leave a leg dangling over the edge as I was wont to do in other, warmer seasons. I kept my feet together, tucked under the warmth of my old yellow quilt. It may have been warmer around my perch near the ceiling than it was near the floor, but it was cold enough that I practiced caution.

I've been using the desk, but I'm not sleeping in my old bunk bed this winter. Mom has turned the top into storage space and a staging area for various cloth-based projects. I've slept instead on a more ordinary box spring placed where I used to keep the gooseneck rocker. It suits me well enough. Sometimes I sit on the new bed and look at the old bed and think its time may be past. It should be packed away, or passed on to some other child who will treasure it as much as I did; a simple desk would take up less of the room, in perception and in fact.

But tonight, I'm feeling nostalgic, and I'm glad the old bed is still there.