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December 2003 | Vol. II - No. 12


Stories from the Edge of the Bunk Bed

The creator of the bunk bed had other things in mind besides sleep. Invented in the 17th century by a Ukrainian boy named Guenther, his intent was that it be used in his family´s circus act. Guenther thought up the idea for the bunk bed one frigid winter weekend while locked up in a cottage with nine kids, a dozen chickens, the family goat and no cable TV.

Unfortunately, after 36 hours enduring small bodies and farm animals bouncing around like ping-pong balls, Guenther´s mother sold the bed and its patent to a passing peddler, who became a wealthy furniture entrepreneur. By selling bunk beds to unsuspecting parents, Guenther´s mother could have made a fortune, but she valued her sanity more--a trade-off any mother can understand.

Actually, I made all that up, but it seems a plausible story. Who else but a kid would dream of hoisting a spring mattress eight feet into the air on wooden stilts?

Deputy DawgIf nothing else, a bunk bed is a memory maker. Everyone has a childhood bunk bed story. My favorite comes from a friend who was convinced that, like Deputy Dawg, if he jumped from the top bunk with a cowboy hat on, the resulting updraft would cause his hat to act like a parachute. Logically, he concluded, he would then glide down to earth like a feather on a breeze. He learned two things from the resulting experiment: Cartoons are deceiving and broken collarbones hurt.

A few years ago, my husband and I determined our son needed a bunk bed. We envisioned a Tom Sawyer-like atmosphere where he and his overnight buddies could share secrets, plot mischief and whisper about girls.

After one month and three guests who thought the bed was a carnival ride, we posted this sign:


1. All bunk bed occupants must wear helmet and kneepads.

2. This is not a trampoline, and you are not a Flying Wallenda. No jumping on either bunk lest you wish to leave a portion of your scalp stuck to the ceiling.

3. This is not the place to practice your audition for the show Jackass. Prohibited activities include swinging from bars, back flip dismounts and blindfolded bodies hurtling off mattresses.

4. This is not the uneven parallel bars, and you are not a contender for the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. Spring-boarding off a pile of books to mount the top bunk will not be tolerated. Such foolishness will result in the offender collecting his toothbrush and being driven home.

Since we posted the sign, we haven´t had a single injury. Then again, we haven´t had any more thrill-seeking overnight guests either.

Life is full of little trade-offs.

Kris DeckerWriter's Bio: She endures eternal Minnesota winters by writing freelance articles, essays and features. Her two kids (a rich source of poignant, humorous, and most happily, free material) are the inspiration for much of her work focusing on the topics of kids, parenting, families, individuality and creativity. Read more articles by this author


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