Sunday, May 13, 2012

Off the clock

It's evening. Twenty past nine to be exact, and I'm trying to ignore the sounds coming from across the hall.


Their voices call to one-another as if they weren't sleeping in the same room. She says something. He answers. She tells him why he's wrong. He tells her she smells. Both of them laugh. They are happy and enjoying each other's company. It's not exactly rare. In fact, it's almost predictable at this time of night.

Before-bedtime bedlam morphs a into an up-too-late euphoria.

You'd think they'd be tired with all that preceded this moment:

Chasing the dog around the house.
Getting ready for school.
Chasing the dog around the house.
Did you comb your hair?
Brush your teeth?
Wash your face?
Running after the bus.
School ….
More school …
Did I mention school?
Not to mention getting home from school.
Measuring the garden we planted yesterday to see if it grew any.
Rummaging through the kitchen for food.
Chasing the dog around the house.
Dance class.
Chasing other dance students around the studio.
Complaining about dinner – and how you hate vegetable-chicken-meatloaf-steak-spaghetti-tacos – and why can't we just eat from the four REAL food groups: Ice cream, candy, cookies and pie?
Chasing the dog around the house.
Keeping the dog from eating your homework.
Bath time.
Did you comb your hair?
Brush your teeth?
Wash your face?
Chasing the dog around your …
Oh look, it's bed time.

It's bedtime? Already? No fair!

Even after the last page is turned, hugs are hugged, kisses kissed and the lights snapped off they are not ready to sleep.

Each night it seems their routine becomes more of an improvisation.

On this night, Ittybit calls the dog. The Champ shoos the dog away. Ittybit calls her again, peeling back the blanket to make room. Champ throws one of Ittybit's toys so she will give chase. And so it goes for a while: Up. … Down … Up. … Down. Each time the dog scrabbles across the bed, rustling the covers as she launches and hitting the floor with a thud as she's dismissed. Her collar jewelry jingling no matter which direction she's heading.

Their voices, low at first, build a wall of noise that imprisons my thoughts.

“Be quiet! I can't hear myself think,” I yell, feeling the sting of my own irony slapping me in the face. It's TIME for BED!!!

No more dispute. Only admonished silence followed by the gradual overtaking of sleep.

The dog is the only one still stirring.

I hear her nails clicking across the floor. The lapping of water. And the groaning thud that I've come to expect before she finally settles.

She's not tired either, though she's give up her plaintive, daytime bark and settles into her nighttime chatty banter, which clearly emphasizes her displeasure that her people aren't polyphasic sleepers, too. Soon she falls silent.

I start to relax in this moment of reprieve.

Motherhood, off-duty but on-call.

I don't want to make a move until little bodies settle and I hear the deepening of breath.

Instead I hear the unmistakable sound of teeth shredding what I can only presume is a toy.


I don't know for sure, you see, because I'm trying to stay off the clock, which I can manage if I just ignore the sounds coming from across the hall.

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