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Converting our van into a camper will be a lot of work, but it will be nice when it’s done and great for traveling around the country. I’ll need to add a bed, a refrigerator, sink, cookstove, furnace, air conditioner - everything. Normally when I start a project like this, I can visualize where everything needs to go and start building. Since space is limited in the van, this project will require more planning.
Being the biggest piece in the puzzle, I decided to start with the bed. Should it be in the front or the back? Most people run their bed across the back width of the van, but I am taller than the van is wide, so I want to position the bed lengthwise. I was having trouble envisioning it; getting a feel for how it would fit. I had an idea. I cut a large piece of cardboard, the actual size of the bed, and laid it on the van floor. Moving it to different places, I was still struggling to visualize the layout. June and I were taking a trip out east and we really needed to get on the road, but I had one more idea to try before leaving.
We have a rollaway bed in the basement. I put it in the van. It gave me a good perspective of the space the actual bed will take up. Since the rollaway bed was already in the van, I decided to take it with us on our trip. I threw in some bedding and June and I headed out.
By the next night, we were somewhere in Pennsylvania. I was tired and pulled into a rest area. I crawled into the rollaway bed and pulled up the covers, tucking them under my chin. It was cold; I shivered under the covers, “I sure wish I had the furnace installed.” I said, then asked June, “Bugs, are you warm enough?” She came to the side of the bed. Her ears felt cold when I petted her head. I invited her to snuggle with me on the bed, opposed to sleeping on her own bed on the cold floor. She gladly obliged and we slept warm and snug through the night. Early the next morning a dispute arose in the van.
I got up and ran to the restroom. When I came back, my dog - man’s best friend - had burrowed herself under the covers in my bed, even using my pillows! I told her to move but she wouldn’t budge so I went ahead and fixed breakfast. When I looked at June, so cozy on the rollaway bed, I began to reminisce.
Growing up, we had a rollaway bed. My brothers and sisters and I positioned it lengthwise in front of the television, opened it, then crawl under blankets. We laid in a line, on our stomachs across the width of the mattress. Leaning on our elbows with our chins propped up on the palms of our hands and our fingers cupping our cheeks, we watched cartoons (in black and white) on a Saturday morning. If the kid on one end pulled the covers their way, the kid on the other end would complain, “Come on, you’re hogging all the covers.” It was best to find a spot in the middle.
Anyone who got up from the bed for any reason, would find their spot taken, upon return. An argument was imminent:
“You’re in my spot.”
“You didn’t call place-backs”
“Yes, I did.”
“No, you didn’t”
“Yes, I did, so and so heard me.”
The controversy interupted our cartoon viewing. Eventually the other siblings became the jury, determining who was right and who was wrong. The kid losing the dispute often got up, protesting, “It’s not fair. Nobody likes me!” then stomped off mad. When the victorious one wiggled back onto the bed, complaints would come from both ends, “Come on! You’re pulling the covers off me.”
When the cartoons were over, we were going to put the bed away. Inevitably one kid would lay in the middle refusing to get up - so we folded the bed up - with them in it. Once they wiggled out the end, we opened the bed and took turns laying in the middle, like a hotdog in a bun. The other kids brought the ends up fastening the metal latches. We were all skinny kids and I don’t think anyone ever got stuck in the hotdog bun.
One time, three of us stood on the mattress while the other kids folded the ends up like a taco shell, securing the latches on each side. The two ends of the bed folded together at the top were tighter than being in the bottom like a hotdog. We were stuck and couldn’t get out.
I tried to lift the latch on my side, but it was too tight. I sucked my stomach in as much as I could. I attempted to pull the two ends of the bed closer together, releasing the pressure on the latch, but couldn’t do it one-handed. I used two hands so the kid in the middle could reach around me to unlatch the bed, but their arms were too short. We were stuck. The kids outside were laughing, while we struggled. We all made quite a commotion – enough so to wake Dad.
Dad walked into the living room in his robe. “I’m trying to sleep. What’s going on here?” he demanded to know. Quickly assessing the situation, he came to our rescue, lifting the latch and setting us free. He lectured, “This is a bed, not a toy. If you guys can’t use it right, then just leave it alone.” Silence fell on the room.
As soon as he returned to his bedroom, closing the door behind him, a whispering dispute ensued as to who was the one making enough noise to wake up Dad.
Reflecting fondly on those days as a kid, I smiled and looked at June on the rollaway bed inside our van. I wondered, if I were to fold the bed up with June Bug in it, like a hotdog in a bun, could she get out? I chuckled at the very idea of it. She looked at me and warned, “Don’t even think about it, mister!”
I shivered with chills while scooping another spoonful of Cheerios into my mouth. June rested, all warm and cozy in my bed, under my covers and on my pillows, while I stood in the cold van eating my breakfast. I should have called place-backs.