There’s a palpable intimacy in a bedroom that’s not just about sex.
The comfort of the space, the vulnerability lying between the sheets, and the interactions before and after sex are also what make a room sacred.Whispers of hope, tears of sadness, and discussions of what type of dishwasher to buy linger on pillows. Memories, both the ones already made and the ones yet to be discovered, fill a bedroom like furniture.
As a former house cleaner, I’ve stepped into many homes. The routine was similar in each house, but every bedroom had a uniquely powerful energy. Even after years on the job, every time I crossed the threshold of a master bedroom, it felt like I stumbled upon a diary that was left open. I tried not to peek, but in snippets and long rambling paragraphs, I got to know both the juicy and mundane details of someone else’s life. With each floor vacuumed, each dresser dusted, and each bed made, my experiences mingled with theirs.
A collection of “Seinfeld” episodes on top of the DVD player, a stack of books on the nightstand, or a forgotten cup of tea are signs of comfort and escape.
Magazines, recipes, a package of unopened underwear, fishing lures, a bucket of spackle, and piles of nursing pads transform the bedroom into the junk drawer of the house. All of the current contents are too valuable to get rid of, too needed to be put away, or too complicated to find a final resting spot.
To-do lists, kids’ artwork, a misplaced toy, and anniversary cards from years past are reminders of what makes life worth living.
Snapshots of life in perpetual motion are framed and line the tops of dressers like a timeline found in history books. Photos of couples morph into photos of couples holding babies, photos of toddlers in the pool, kids on the soccer field, and teenagers with high school diplomas. You can’t always see the two people who started this string of accomplishments, but you can imagine the progression of aging when you find a not-yet-framed photo of the couple’s son holding a newborn of his own.
Even in the barest of rooms, there are walls that have absorbed endless conversations. There’s gossip and humor only significant to the two people talking to each other. There are fights and apologies which tend to be the most meaningful when behind a bedroom door. There are discussions about jobs, friendships, and kids. There is worry over money. There is talk about life before any of it was even imagined. There is reminiscence about the time two people didn’t know the other existed, wonderment about what life would be without the other, and thankfulness they will never know.
There are decisions made to start new, separate lives that no longer involve a shared bedroom.
The bedroom is where babies and families are imagined. It’s where news of babies conceived and babies lost fill the air with overwhelming joy and ache. It is where expectant parents feel their baby move for the first time, where new parents sleep with their baby for the first time, where new parents fight because of their baby for the first time.
The bedroom is the ship that keeps a family afloat and the bed is the anchor. Kids climb in for comfort and safety; couples find each other there for the same reasons.
The bed is where couples laugh, binge-watch Netflix, and pretend not to hear the baby cry until someone finally throws the covers off and exits the room. The bed is where people rest their heads, their hearts, and their fears. Sleep falls like dominos as one person watches the other drift away while holding a book, remote, or hand.
The familiarity of sounds and movements are only noticed when someone is away or asleep with a child in the next room. Foreheads are kissed, body heat is absorbed, and the sweet smells of loved ones remind us we are home.
The stories and secrets of day-to-day life start and end in the bedroom. Love is literally and figuratively made. Bodies are entwined and hearts are tangled, beating the loudest and strongest when knotted together.
I swept away the dirt and replaced crumpled sheets with fresh sets, but fingerprints and unspoken messes left in a bedroom are permanent. Marriage and parenting are best when not perfect, and even in the tidiest of bedrooms, love can never be wiped clean.