Those three weeks in August, Bill and Edna changed the sheets in the two extra bedrooms seven times. Seven times they stripped all the bedding off at least one of the three beds, hauled the sheets to the laundry room, washed and dried (but did not fold) them and hauled them back to the bedrooms. The two beds in Ginny’s Room were bunk beds, and Bill invariably bumped his head making the lower bunk and neither of them could reasonably reach across the top bunk to tuck. So, the whole bunk (an overly massive log construction that Bill had at one time thought quaint) had to be dragged away from the wall, and then after the sheets were tucked, heaved back again. The queen size mattress on the big bed in Laurie’s room was perched on a massive “sleigh frame” with a bow and a stern that were very stern and hard to maneuver around.
Making the sleigh bed up required both Bill and Edna and some profanity (curtesy of Bill, thank you very much). Bill had to lift the ends of the mattress while Edna did the tucking, first of the under sheet, bow and stern, then of the over sheet and blanket at the stern. Cursing seemed to help in holding up the mattress as Edna tucked. The mattress was one of those huge things they had bought because Laurie was still using their home then—even after they moved—as home base, and when Laurie was in civilization, she liked civilized things like thick mattresses and crème brulee French toast for breakfast, which she made herself.
And Bill and Edna weren’t getting any younger.
They had retired to Montana from the DC suburbs, and had made the mistake of telling everyone to “come visit sometime.” The first year, besides two bounces to civilization by Laurie and a visit by Ginny over Christmas, they had four visitors ranging in familiarity from close friends to vague acquaintances, including two Mormon families of expanding size, who showed up on their way to visit or from visiting Yellowstone or Glacier or on their way to hunt the massive Last Lost River Cutthroat Trout. This was before they had furnished the house completely, and even Laurie had to sleep on the floor.
The August we are talking about was in their third year in Montana.
First the Filbrotters showed up with their sullen teenager Derek on the way to BYU Idaho with vacation detours wherever they could find accommodations. When Doug Filbrotter called to say they were coming west in August, it took his reminder “You know. Doug Filbrottef rom Montgomery Village Ward” to loosen Edna’s memory of whom exactly he was.
All Bill remembers of their two-night stay was Gayle grinning and nodding as Doug detailed the summary of their itinerary and how they had found somebody from the Church they could stay with on every one of their sixteen-day jaunt from Gaithersburg, Maryland, to Rexburg Idaho via Kirtland, Ohio, and Winter Quarters, Nebraska. There was also the choice note by Derek over breakfast of Crème Brulee French toast that if he had just taken a “Goddamned airplane, you could have saved even more money,” and he wouldn’t be bored out of his gourd. Of course, Doug blew a gasket at the profanity and at the ingratitude. They left that morning with eight more days, a trek through Yellowstone, and stays arranged with Gayle’s cousin in Driggs, Idaho, and a returned missionary they knew in Jackson, Wyoming, before they finally got rid of the kid at the dorm. They left as well rested as mattresses can provide rest, all of them sullen, though Gayle’s grin, if somewhat more forced than usual, was still firmly affixed on her face.
“No rest for the wicked,” Edna said as she waved them good bye from the door and turned to strip Laurie’s bed and the upper bunk in Ginny’s room—Derek felt less claustrophobic up there.
They had a two-day respite before Virgil Woo arrived. Virgil was an engineer who had worked with Bill. He stayed one might and made up the huge sleigh bed, neat an perfectly squared at the corners, before he left. Bill unmade it and hauled the sheets to the washing machine.
Following in quick succession were Janet and Brad Jones with their baby and two toddlers, Velma Oslitter making her bucket-list chance to see the wild, wild west, the Brittengers auto-biking their way down the Continental Divide, and finally on the 20th, Laurie on her way to save another corner of the Universe somewhere east of Eden.
The Jones toddlers fought over who got to sleep on the upper bunk for the two nights they stayed. The baby had an accident on the sleigh bed sheets. Neither Janet nor Brad seemed too concerned about the bunk war, though the screeching and whining drove Bill out to the garage for a while. The war was finally truced by Edna suggesting “turns” and negotiating the “me-first” denouement. Janet was embarrassed by the baby accident and so stripped the peed-on sheets and mattress cover and hauled them to the washing machine, monitored their cleansing, and hauled them back. She needed help to tuck, and Brad was, as usual, nose into his electronics. So, Edna and Bill lifted the mattress as she tucked. Bill managed to forego the usual profane assistance.
Velma complained about the sleigh bed the first morning, then about the lower bunk in Ginny’s room on the second morning. But she was pleasant company, and they had many gossips about friends back in Gaithersburg. Bill and Edna waited until she was gone to strip both beds and haul the sheets to the washing machine.
The less said about the three-night stay of the Brittenger’s the better. Dianne insisted on clean sheets every night. She stripped the beds each morning of the stay and hauled the sheets to the laundry room. Then she and Gary hauled their bikes off somewhere on the back of their Prius for a ride through some scenery. They hit the Headwaters State Park biking trail in Three Forks on the first day and were very excited to have seen the “beginning of the Missouri River.” The next day they left before dawn, sheets neatly dumped in front of the washer, to do the Big Hole Battlefield bike trail, and returned with solemn guilt at what happened to the Nez Perce there. The next morning, they left for good, sheets neatly tucked under a smoothly made-up bed.
By the time Laurie arrived, Bill and Edna had had enough of changing sheets. They left the folded sheets at the foot of the bed and Laurie was on her own. When she left after two wonderful weeks, in which she made her Crème Brulee French Toast twice, she made the bed, said goodbye and wandered again into the wilderness. Bill and Edna left those sheets on that bed until the following June, when their friends, Marg and Dave Jones, Brad’s parents, dropped in for a visit and a guided tour of Southwest Montana.
But that is another and really more pleasant story.