Somewhere in the middle of the night he comes to bed. Never quietly. Always in the same pattern, like a hurdler or high-jumper going for the record. Bounce, bounce, PLOP. Sometimes the plop lands over me successfully, gold medal achieved. Often it comes crashing down on a vital organ or two before he squiggles, claiming space. If I’m not already facing the wall, he turns me. He fits his pint-sized body in a jigsaw space. He puts his arm around me. I’m mostly asleep. Too tired to put him back to bed. I smile, even though I know the rest of the night of sleep is shot. Fluffy bashes me in the face.
Fluffy is the first “buddy” he got, a gift from Grandpa before he was born, a lamb with a nice pink bow. Fluffy is a boy, make no mistake about it. When Fluffy assaults me, I wake up. I fall back to sleep. Soon after, I hear hysterical laughter. A long, deep belly laugh. I am missing the joke, but lifts my heart to hear him so happy, even in his sleep. I smile, even though I am losing more sleep. I fall back to sleep. I wake up to a question. The type of question that friends carry deep into the night over tea or wine, knowing neither will want to get up in the morning, but the problems of the universe must be solved now.
“Mommy.” He’s not good a the nighttime whisper.
“Yes, Declan?” I would very much like just a little sleep…
“Do you think God can bring back the dinosaurs?”
“I don’t know.”
“But God can do anything.”
“Then he can help you sleep. It’s sleeping time.”
Pause….(It aint over till the fat lady sings. And I don’t hear music…)
“I’ll ask Santa.” It’s decided.
He’s already asking Santa for a cat and all the toys to which I said no. He’s bypassing me. Now he’s bypassing God.
“It’s sleep time, Declan.”
“YES?” The part of my brain that’s conscious gets ready to blast him.
“I love you.” I soften with guilt in the way a parent does when misjudging intent.
“I love you too, Declan.” Before I know it, I feel his body relax. His arm slips off my body, his hand out of mine. He and Fluffy roll over, giving me a square inch or two of bed real estate I’ve so richly earned but never seem to enjoy. He giggles. He has full sleeping
conversation about something he wouldn’t tell me in school. He giggles again. Before long, it’s 4AM. Late enough for me to get up, drink coffee, and write. I slip away, not unnoticed.
“Mommy! WHERE are you going?”
“To the bathroom,” I fib.
“DON’T go work. Come right back!”
“Okay.” I lie. I know he’ll be sleeping, laughing, and giggling before I reach the door.
He gets up two times and interrupts my writing. I send him to bed until six rolls around. Then I sit him on my lap and tell him how when I was little, Grandpa used to go to work very early, and we’d get up and drink tea together.
“I don’t like tea.”
“We also had Carnation Instant Breakfast.”
“It’s like a vanilla milkshake.” Good grief. Now he wants vanilla milkshakes for breakfast. I tell him no. He sits on my lap for a while and hugs me. Life stops. It’s quiet. The wood stove glows, the sunrise starts to peek through the window, and I think of all the work I planned to do….work that I am most decidedly not doing now, because I am sitting. My friend Claudia, yogini extraordinaire, told me to sit for an hour each day. Not meditate. Just sit. I laughed because even though she is right–she’s always right–I wanted to ask her if she remembered about Declan. But here we are, sitting. Together. In peace. Waiting to tackle the universe.
And then, it is over.
“Okay, Mom, please get me my show. I want Scooby Doo on Cartoon Network.” I put on Scooby Doo, get him a snack, and I move over on the couch.
Night is officially over. Time to tackle the world…for real.