Archetypal Man of the modern ages: How to Make a Bed

By Anthony Buccino

The kids in Cabbage Patch were doing handstands and headstands until I could get the sheet going the right way.

One Saturday, not too long ago, I helped my dear wife around the house. I didn't have much else to do. Forget about sleeping in, once the kids arrive, the honeymoon's over. It went something like this:

By the time I caught up with her, she had already, what she called "stripped the bed" down to the mattress. I saw odd little designs in the quilt stitching I had never noticed before. We piled up the linen to bring it down to the washer.

"Okay, partner," she said, since I was helping out, "I'll get these dirty sheets downstairs and start the wash. While I'm gone, you can turn the mattresses over. Please be careful." She shook her head for some reason, "Try not to knock over the lamp or the end table."

Before I knew it, I had the mattress back on the box spring with all its lumps redistributed. I was admiring my work when she came in with clean sheets.

A Father's Place, an Eclectic Collection by Anthony Buccino

 I recognized them immediately as the ones which, only the Saturday before, I had folded myself. As she unraveled them, I could quickly tell from their neatness that she had refolded everything after I had gone to sleep.

Getting the clean sheets to lie placidly on the bed was the real challenge of helping out. I've remodeled basements and cleaned the winter muck out of our house's leaders and gutters -- but those chores are a Saturday afternoon nap compared to making a bed.

"Fold it over…no, flip it…no, that side comes to me -- and that end goes down at the bottom."

The kids in Cabbage Patch were doing handstands and headstands until I could get the sheet going the right way.

"Stretch the elastic part onto the corner."

Hmmmm, that's easy enough. I can see it's not because I'm so much stronger than my wife; I just saved her manicure and now her fingernails won't have to be wrapped.

"Next comes the top sheet," she said flipping my half of the sheet across the bed. We tried to get our corners to billow in sync. It took the utmost coordination on my part. I wondered how she could ever do this alone.

"Over again, you've got it upside down…No, that dull side faces up. That is the bright side. Do you have enough there to tuck in?"

"Sure do," I muttered. This work was getting to me.

"Send some back here, I can't tuck any in…Now fold over the top, about this much. No! Don't start tucking the bottom. Wait a sec'. Finish the fold on top. Now, we can do the bottom. Tuck in the bottom all across…yeah, that's it. Then fold it in, like this, see? It's a hospital corner."

Whoever invented it, I thought, should be in a hospital.

"No. No, like this. Watch. Fold it out, over -- then tuck…yeah, that's sort of it. Now, fold-- no, tuck it in. That's it. You've got it! Great job! Now reach behind you and grab the comforter."

"The what?" I couldn't begin to imagine what I should be grabbing.

"To you, it's the bedspread." Now, she was beginning to mutter. "Not to anyone else…to anyone else, it's a comforter."

"Gotcha!" As I tried to sort out my corners from hers, I asked, "which way do these Cabbage Patches face?"

"Towards the door."

"Won't the sun be in their eyes?"

"Don't give me a hard time, okay? I thought you wanted to help."

"I can't learn if I don't ask questions," I said as I thought of yet another question. "Are those stuffed animals well trained?"

"What are you talking about?"

"If this was my job, I'd have those bears and -- uh, whatever that is -- trained to jump back on the bed when it's ready."

"That's very nice, dear. Maybe with a lot of practice, you can do this job every day." She made a final tuck on the comforter and said, "Now, let's do the kids' bed."

Making the bed got easier by the end of the morning. My wife was so proud of me, she was ready to rent me out to the other wives on the block. I was ready for lunch, then a nap.

During lunch she suggested it would be a good day for me to caulk the tub, mow the lawn, fix the gutters and downspouts and tune up her car.

I offered to read the thin classified section of the Saturday paper to find myself a place to work from sun to sun on Saturdays -- one that might last at least until the kids can help their mom around the house.

First published as Does anyone need a good man? on Aug. 26, 1986 in Bloomfield Life. Reprinted in The Belleville Times in 1990.

Adapted from A Father's Place, An Eclectic Collection by Anthony Buccino

© 1986 by Anthony Buccino

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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.

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