10: Breaking Bed

10: Breaking Bed

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Breaking Bed

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

~Albert Schweitzer

I remember how my mind swirled when my mother told me a new girl would be arriving to live in our home. Five of us already shared two overcrowded bedrooms. This new girl would be an intrusion in my life and my already limited space.

My younger sister and I already shared a double bed. Our dresser and desk took up much of the rest of the room. We had enough room to put a small end table by each side of the bed for a lamp and radio. Now the new girl was going to get a bed of her own and it would occupy the only remaining space in our room.

The next afternoon, a curly headed teenager carrying a suitcase arrived with a caseworker. The woman introduced us and Rose curtsied. My parents laughed.

The adults talked while scanning official looking papers; Rose and I stared at each other. My mother had already explained to me that most of the kids in her position had been through some kind of traumatic situation at home. I didn’t want to ask questions and appear nosey, but I did see sadness in Rose’s dark brown eyes.

That night, my mother said good night and the room became silent, except for my sister’s heavy breathing. She suddenly let out a loud snort.

A snicker came from Rose’s direction. “What was that?”

“My sister snores.” Another snort and another snicker. I began giggling; Rose’s snicker grew into laughter.

“Quiet down, girls,” came from my parents’ room.

Through all the laughter, my sister didn’t wake up. Snort. Snort. We giggled again. We finally gained our composure and Rose became serious, “You know something, Margaret, this afternoon I thought you were pretty stuck up.”

“Well, you came off kind of weird. A curtsy. Seriously?”

Rose doubled over in laughter.

“Shh, my mom is getting mad. We better go to sleep. We can talk tomorrow.” I thought maybe everything would work out. I rolled over to get some sleep and it became silent again. BOOM! We bolted upright in the darkness.

“What was that?” My mother stomped down the hall. She opened our door and peeked in.

“Is everything alright in here?”

“Yep.” I squinted toward Rose. My mother closed the door and continued to the boy’s room. Rose and I jumped out of bed and peeked into the hall.

“What happened in here? Who broke the beds? You guys better settle down.” My father’s footsteps plodded down the hall. I shut the door until he passed by.

“What’s wrong?”

“The boys were messing around and broke the beds.” My parents started reassembling the beds. Not wanting to get involved, I closed the door and climbed back in bed. On her way past, my mother opened our door and peeked in.

“They’re asleep.”

“Well, that’s where I want to be. Let’s go,” my dad closed the door. I listened until the footsteps stopped and began drifting off.

“Psst. Margaret, are you asleep?”

“Almost. What do you want?” Rose was moving around in her bed. “I got to tell you something.”

I opened my eyes in time to realize she was stepping across the opening between our beds.

“Don’t…” BOOM! Both beds collapsed. We sat on my bed staring at each other, waiting for the explosion that was sure to come from my parents. They stomped down the hall again and went straight to the boys’ room to question them.

Rose giggled. “Your sister didn’t even wake up.” I giggled. The more we tried not to, the harder we laughed. Our door slowly opened.

“What’s going on in here?” We doubled over, grabbing our stomachs.

“What did you girls do?” We couldn’t answer through the tears. When we didn’t stop, my mother shook her head and smiled. “I don’t have time for this, I’m tired. You girls fix your own beds.” She closed the door and went back to her room. I could hear my parents laughing, too. We got up, rolled my sister out of bed, and fixed both beds. She stayed asleep on the floor. We woke her up long enough to get her back into bed.

“Rose, what did you want?”

“I can’t remember, now.” She started giggling again.

“Oh, brother. Don’t start again. We gotta get some sleep.” We climbed back into bed; however, every few minutes a muffled giggle erupted. As I drifted to sleep, I decided sharing my room with this strange girl wasn’t so bad.

I realized what my mother meant by finding common ground to make a connection. The laughter we shared bonded us and was worth the loss of a little space. I don’t think this kind of situation was what my mother had in mind, but broken beds and laughter created a sister bond and a lifelong friendship.

Rose now lives in Washington State and I live in New York. We are both in our sixties, but each time we call each other this episode comes up and the laughter begins again.

I wish my mother could be here and understand how much I appreciate the lessons she taught me about compassion and acceptance. Without my new brothers and sisters, I might not have developed the understanding and the skills that prepared me to be a teacher’s aide for children with special needs. My mother’s legacies of giving and love are still being shared with those who need them most.

~Marge Gower

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