the family bed

Building the bunk bed kept my husband’s hands busy as we waited for the eldest son’s return from a Teen Mission trip to Honduras the summer of 1979. We did not have a lot of cash; we could not afford the best wood, but he could at least make a sturdy, bed out of pine two-by-fours with six drawers built under the bottom bunk. After varnishing over the dark stain, he assembled the pieces with rough steel screws. I bought matching football comforters and sheets for the beds.

The next younger son settled into the bunk quickly as he waited that last week or two for his brother’s return. When the traveler returned, he smiled with pleasure at the new bed and quickly filled the drawers with clothes and other treasures.
Those boys grew up and left the nest and bed behind to their younger brothers. When we moved south to El Dorado, the movers disassembled and packed the bunk into the truck. My husband reassembled it in our new home for the younger boys.

The boys decorated the beams with stickers, left the beds unmade, stuffed clothes into the drawers and hung shirts and jeans on the posts until the mid-1990s when the last went off to college. Our daughter, the youngest, did not need the bunks – she had begged her dad for a daybed years before. Our in-house sleeping needs had changed. We asked the oldest son, now the father of two growing daughters, if he would like the bunks for his children.

He welcomed the space saving beds. All we had to do was tuck them into the back of our red van and haul them back up to Indiana.

We got space. They got beds, storage – and a set of matching pastel toned covers. The girls used the bunks until they moved out and into their own apartments. When we visited shortly after they moved, their mom asked, “Do you want to take the bunks with you?”

My husband said, “No.”
I said, “Yes, we could use them when grandkids visit us.”
My husband reluctantly slid the pieces of the bed into the back of our gold van to carry back to Arkansas.
He freshened the wood with a mahogany paint, put on new gold the drawer pulls and re-assembled it all with shiny, new gold screws. It looked brand new.
When my daughter visited with her baby boy, she found fluorescent pink, yellow and orange curtains – with matching bed covers, the room glowed.
Last fall, my daughter asked her dad to build a bunk bed for his 2-year-old grandson – so he could give up the crib for his expected sibling.

Because he was in the middle of building his dream workshop, grandpa hemmed and hawed around about answering her request. I wanted to move the futon out of my sewing room, so we disassembled the bunks and slid them in the back of our silver van and hauled them north to her home in central Arkansas.
Last month, they painted the beds navy blue, added silver drawer pulls and re-assembled it with silver screws.

As they figured out where each of the six, freshly painted drawers fit, my son-in-love asked, “Did your dad build this?”
“Of course,” my daughter said, taking out a drawer and trying another hole, “That’s why it’s free.”
They finally shoved all the drawers in place, bought dark comforters and put a red upturned milk crate at the foot of the bed for their son to use as a step stool when he climbed up into the bed.

He loves having a big boy bed – especially with the hanging quilts tucked beneath the top bunk that convert his sleeping space into a hideout just his size.
From teenagers, to tweeners, to toddlers; from north to south and back again, the pine bed continues to serve our family 30 years after my husband saw a need and built a basic piece of furniture.