I would like for you to spend the night with me…

 

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.

That’s not working. I roll onto my other side and try again. But I hear voices. Not the frightening kind; Familiar ones. My father waking me in the mornings that summer I was eleven and stayed with him. “The sun’s up. You should be too.” (Sun? Barely. It was dawn.) I hear the voices of others I love and they sound comforting but they don’t put me to sleep. I hear the familiar question of a friend “Don’t you EVER sleep?” and I can’t.

I have to sleep. It’s two. If I don’t sleep now I’ll be tired tomorrow. Or today. Whichever. Sometimes they’re like one long continuous day with little catnaps in the dark. I flip onto my back. Try my old trick of relaxing my body one part at a time. When I was fourteen or so I read about etheric projection. A way to be in two places at once? Who wouldn’t want that? The author, clearly a man with too much time on his hands, outlined techniques for separating the etheric from the physical body. I don’t remember where I thought I wanted to go with my etheric self but I do remember lying flat on my back, perfectly still, and “sensing” each part of my body starting with my toes and working my way up. Toes. I have toes. I sense my toes. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten pink little piggies. Toes, toes, toes. No, I never made it the whole way. I was usually asleep by the time I got to my knees. Probably a good thing because I was a little afraid of the possibility of death by etheric/physical separation (though it would make for an interesting obituary) and a little afraid my mother would catch me having out-of-body experiences. But instead of falling asleep cataloguing my parts, now I’m remembering my teenage curiosity and susceptibility to everything I read.

Try again. I often sing my children to sleep. As babies they each had a favorite lullaby that mesmerized them. The littlest one’s is Hush Little Baby. I sing a feminist version where it’s the mama that does all the buying. Because I’m the mama. I sing it to myself now in my head. What I hear instead is her softly snoring in the other room. She has a cold. I should check on her. I hear a car go by and I remember the first night I spent in this house. I couldn’t sleep (imagine that) for the sound of the traffic on the road. Not traffic like on a major highway. Just a tractor trailer every half hour or so. And not the road we live on, but the main road nearby. The place we’d left was that quiet. I try to think of another lullaby and hear instead another noise. The refrigerator? Why is it so loud? Is that the ice-maker? Did I leave the ceiling fan on? It’s a weird mechanical whirring…

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Shelby Lynne is singing in my head:

 

Sleep. Come on in.
I would like for you to spend the night with me.
Sleep. Where you been?
I have surely missed you since you’ve been gone…

Sleep. Say my prayers.
Asking for a place that looks like all the nighttime fantasies.
Sleep. Are you here?
Are you real and am I snuggling down tonight?

Motherhood

 

“You haven’t brushed your teeth in a week?” My husband stood as he asked it and I thought: This is not going to be good. My son’s eyes shifted to me then the floor. Not good.

I’d been folding the endless laundry while he watched the endless football on TV. We’d sent the kids off to brush their teeth before bed when the boy came back to announce he’d forgotten his toothbrush in the car. This was our “Whoa. What?” moment. We both snapped out of our endless listlessness at that. Mister Lazybones had left his entire suitcase in the car, toothbrush and all, since coming home from a sleepover last weekend. A week ago. Too lazy to schlep himself out to the driveway and fetch it for seven days. My husband was shocked. I wasn’t. But my instinct as a mother is always to protect them and, yes, cover for them when necessary. Intercede. So I was scrambling for some explanation to save my son from being throttled when the realization hit me that he’d been lying to me every time I asked if he’d brushed his teeth. I set the tiny underpants I’d been folding into thirds down. We spent $600 at the dentist in October. Half of that was on this boy. My husband drew himself up for confrontation as he asked “You haven’t brushed your teeth in a week?”

The eyes shifted. His sister, standing at his side, glared at him. And then I knew. I knew before the admission was made. I knew before she spat her pronouncement in triumph. I knew. And my throat hurt.

My son has been sick. It started with a headache and slight fever, then a sore throat, then turned to a wracking cough. I have no fear of the flu. It comes and goes quickly and, really, in a house with four children you’re bound to catch it eventually. I let them throw up on me and I hold them and kiss them and clean them and hold them till they do it again. Fevers and sore throats are another thing altogether. They make you grouchy and they don’t go away. Coughs linger.

For nearly a week I’ve been reminding him: Cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands. Don’t touch my plate.

And I’ve been reminding myself: Cover your mouth when he coughs. Wash your hands. Don’t eat his leftovers.

I turn my head when he hugs me. I know, I know. I hate that I do it. But I have things going on. No time to be sick. I felt sick watching my daughter eye her brother though. My husband boomed “Answer me. You haven’t brushed your teeth in A WEEK?” and I decided my son was on his own.

“I have.” I already knew.

“With what? Your finger?” No.

“No.”

Spotlight on the girl.

“He’s been using Mom’s toothbrush!”

Lovely.