So I made it home OK last night. No demonic slugs. No mutant bears. It was after 11:00. Pretty late (well, pretty late for someone who has to get up at the butt crack of dawn to go to work). Called my husband. Let him know I was OK. Let the dogs out. Fed them. And that’s when I should have turned out the lights and gone up to bed. I had put 300 miles on the car that day. Most of it in legendary Tri-State traffic. I was over tired. I felt like I had been standing too close to a smokey fire: my lungs singed, eyes burning, skin sandpapered. When someone is home with me, I have no trouble going to bed. I can barely keep my eyes open through the 10:00 news. But when I’m alone, when it’s just me and the dogs, I can’t bring myself to climb those stairs.
I wouldn’t call it insomnia. I always think of insomnia as not being able to sleep. This is not wanting to sleep. Maybe I get it from my mother. My father worked nights and she would keep me up with her well after a little girl should be asleep. But maybe that was my fault. Until I was seven, I wouldn’t go to sleep unless she was in the bed with me. So I guess if she wanted to watch the Tonight Show with Jack Paar, I had to be up too. She asked me once when I was in my twenties if I needed her to be in bed with me because I was afraid of the dark. I told her no, it was because I didn’t like the bears staring at me. (Here we go with bears again.) She asked me what I meant and I described laying on my back and looking to the left and seeing the bears. There was a yellow background and each bear appeared to be in a shadow box or frame. They wore blue lederhosen with gold buttons and had one foot raised as if in mid dance or march. And they were playing instruments; one a drum, one a concertina, one a fiddle. They were smiling but they were staring at me and it made me uncomfortable. My mother’s jaw dropped. “That was the wallpaper we had in your room when you were first born. You described it exactly. But I replaced that paper before you were two. Your changing table was up against the wall and the way I always laid you on it, the wall was to the left of your head”. “Well, maybe I just saw a photo of it and that’s what I’m remembering.” “No, I have no photos of that room and anyway, any picture would have been black and white and you knew all the colors.” This, perhaps, was the first indication that I was not a normal child.
But back to not wanting to go to sleep. Maybe I’m just a night owl. In my teen years I would stay up till all hours listening to late night FM radio where they played comedy albums. (Remember those?) Mel Brooks’ 2,000 Year Old Man (Let em all go to hell except cave 76!) Monty Python (Are you Mary Queen of Scotts? I am. screams & crashing noises). Fire Sign Theater (Shhhh. I think someone is tapping the line. tap dancing sounds). Mort Sahl, the album about the Kennedys, Bob Newhart. I loved them all. Probably went a long way to shaping my idea of what’s funny.
Thing is though, I like the early morning. I’ve learned to love that quite time right before the sun is fully up and there’s a little mist in the air. Before the birds are in full chorus. I love to take my cup of coffee out on the back step and watch the dogs sniff around trying to find the little straggler frogs still hiding in the wet grass. Sometimes the humming birds have an aerial battle for possession of the feeder and they whizz past my head like feathery F15s. And I just breath.
In the meantime, I sit with a glass of wine and watch Fraizer and Everybody Love Raymond and Law and Order and Law and Order SVU and Law and Order Criminal Intent until Maggie comes to me and tilts her head and wags her tail and looks at me with eyes that say “Can we go to bed now? So I click the remote. Give them their nighttime treats. Check the doors. Turn off the lights and climb the stairs to the second floor bear-free zone where I know I’ll fall asleep as soon as I switch off the lamp.