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January 2000 Issue
Change To Spare
by Jenny Wojcik
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Happy Twenty First Century! OK, we have survived, and that means that another millennium has just bitten the dust. Sure, we’re special people. We were around to watch the big ball drop on a new millennium, and many of us are relieved that the world didn’t end. Ever wonder where these ideas originate? There are theories galore about big bangs, black holes, and the like. They start out of fear – and everyone’s afraid of change.

Change is hard. A well known statesmen once said, “No one likes change except a wet baby.” Wow, was he ever right. The one thing I’m confident of is that change is inevitable. I’ve had to face some changes lately, some good and some not so good, and it has made me inquisitive. Of course, when you’re looking around for something - you usually find something else.

Our language is so powerful, and most of us give it very little thought. We dash off words or comments or phrases so haphazardly. My grandmother had a wonderful expression that makes SO much sense to me now. She would hear about something new or read about something, and a moment later she would say: “I don’t understand all that I know about that”. I am so “there” with that comment.

When I was researching topics for this issue, I found a lot of bedroom trivia as well as historical information about beds and bedrooms from an article in the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune. Call me quirky, but I wonder about the trivial things that we take for granted. There are sayings and expressions that we use in everyday conversation, and yet most of us have no idea where they came from least of all what they mean!

For instance. Ever wonder where the expression “hit the sack” came from? We know it means going to bed, retiring for the night, preparing for sleep etc., but when the phrase was coined, it was the plain and simple truth. You see, it’s a holdover from the time when mattresses were nothing more than a sack stuffed with one of three readily available things: horsehair, shucks or straw. This was obviously before the ASPCA came into existence, and while we were growing our own corn and oats. I guess we called them as we saw them then. We “hit the sack” literally to fluff it up before we laid our heads down to rest on it.

It seems that the Persians were a progressive lot. The nomads developed the earliest version of the water bed when they filled their goat skin sacks with water. And as people developed and progressed from there, beds became status symbols. It is said that during the Renaissance (the other one, not this one) the length of one’s canopy over the bed was determined by their importance in the world. So, if you were a monarch your bed would be completely covered by a canopy, and if you were a courtier, your bed could only be canopied half-way down at most.

At this point in my research, I could not help but wonder if there were canopy police.

Now things were beginning to get very complicated in the bedroom. The phrase “sleep tight” came from beds of the 16th and 17th century that were in reality a simple mattress (stuffed with whatever one had the most of) which was slung across a lattice work of rope. That rope needed to be tightened regularly to keep one off the floor, so sleep tight made a whole lot of sense then.

I suppose the phrase could have referred to the communal bed popular through the 11th century. That is when entire families bedded down together. In inns, travelers slept with strangers. Out of necessity, beds became larger and were more constructed, often sitting on platforms or in alcoves.

Fortunately, the bedroom became more of a private place by the 18th century. Well-crafted beds were becoming available to the middle class by then and the production of more affordable textiles allowed us regular folks to go to bed in a fashion formerly fit (just) for a king.

And lest you wonder, the 20th century brought about some bed change: the inner spring mattress was introduced in the 1920s, the box spring in the late 1930s and the use of foam in bedding products in the 1950s. Water and adjustable beds came into popularity during the 1960s and airbeds in the 1980s. (Thank you to the Better Sleep Council for that information!)

You see, everything is a progression. You start by recognizing your need – in this case, a place to lay your head – and you move forward from that. You start with something simple, yet adequate. As you learn more or discover more, you take that adequate thing and you improve on it. And you keep on making those improvements until you have something that is as close to perfect as it can be. Then you make a decision. You can either leave it alone, or you can continue to try to make it better.

To me, the year 2000 means that we’re entering a New Renaissance – and before you think I’ve stuttered, think about where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Our lives are constantly changing, and it would be a dull place to exist if it all remained the same. The late humorist Lewis Grizzard once told a joke about change. It’s never made more sense to me than it does now. He said, “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.”

Death, taxes – you’ve heard it before, but the one sure thing is that nothing stays the same. Our tastes, our careers, our children, our spouses, our families, our homes. They’re all changing – hopefully in a positive, progressive way. The point is, let’s not be afraid of change; instead let’s embrace it. With the right posture and attitude, we’ll be making some changes of our own. And rather than just resolve to do it, let’s make it happen. Let’s be the lead dog in our pack. I’m so there!



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