I am sure that all of us have “people, places and things” that instantly remind us of something entirely different. They are linked by an event, which had a profound impact on our life. For me, two of those things are puddles and bed making. An unlikely pairing but this is how it happened:
In a shower of rain
He steppped in a puddle
Up to his middle and never went there again.
The origin of this children’s poem entitled Dr. Foster is English. Gloucester was a reference to Gloucestershire. The historical reference is about a visit King Edward made there. He is repudiated to have fallen from his horse into a mud puddle. He was so embarrassed, he vowed to never return. The underlying story is a warning to children not to get into things, PUDDLES that may be deeper than perceived. *
THE INSPECTOR OF BEDS
One of my early childhood memories is about an argument I had with my dad. I was seven, lying on the floor of my room, reading a poetry book. It featured the picture of a man standing in a puddle. (Dr. Foster) There were rings in the water around his leg. It was fascinating. I wanted to know ‘WHY” the rings were there. My dad wanted me to make the bed.
I defied him and announced that I was not put on the earth to make beds. It was my job, on the other hand, to know ‘why’.
That was when I stepped into my own puddle. I got my answer to WHY.
“Because I said so!” He bellowed. I remained in front of my book.In short order, I was over his lap receiving stinging slaps on my rear end.
I made the bed.
I never got a satisfactory answer from him about the rings. I did get a lesson in behavior modification. I learned that obeying brought praise and affection. Disobeying brought spankings and disruption.
I can’t say that I never disobeyed my parents. Unlike the poem, indeed I have “gone there again”. In fact I have spent my seventy plus years, stepping, falling and being pushed into an assortment of puddles. And I still ask why. It is my nature to question.
Although my father did not have anything erudite in mind when he insisted I make my bed before I could read my book; it did establish routine and motivation as part of my make-up. Getting up, making my bed and getting on with the day has become second nature.
As a result of my upbringing, I have become the queen of bed making. I am also compulsively neat, straightening as I go. It is hard for me to leave a room that is not tidy, a table un-cleared, or a towel not folded. There is something strangely satisfying for me, about order. It may be that the inanimate, by their nature, stay put. Time and chance do not!
Outside the front door is the world. Inside the door is your nest. To really live life fully, you must leave the nest and join the fray, avoiding puddles as you go. But returning to the nest of your choosing is splendid. It is your comfort zone. Even if it is a single room, it should make you happy. Living with chaos inside of your home, makes no sense. (This includes stress and abuse). We all know the expression that a man’s home is his castle. Mine just happens to be neat.
My husband jokes about my tidying mania and often asks if I am expecting the inspector of beds to visit. I usually grimace and say, “I like it that way.” But I never connected the dots until my dad died.
Now my husband’s words have a different meaning for me. No longer an abstract, I realize, profoundly, that the inspector of beds, in fact, may have been my father. And I have spent a lifetime, unaware, that I was still seeking his approval.
Illustration is from The Real Mother Goose (1916) illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright