I’m not sleeping well lately. I mean, truthfully, I haven’t really slept well in 25 years and 10 days because that’s how long I’ve been a mother.
When you’re a young, single mother, you don’t sleep well because any new parent will tell you to be prepared to wake up, beyond the regular times that baby wakes up to eat or get changed, about every 25 minutes to make sure the baby hasn’t died of SIDS. You’ll shoot up, for no apparent reason beyond the extreme silence in the room. Silence that shouldn’t be there because you’ve grown accustomed to the little grunts and gurgles of your baby. Fear will grip your heart, but you’ll screw up your courage and slip silently out of bed. You’ll lean carefully over the bassinet and spend anxious moments, holding your breath, searching in the blue black dark to see that little chest rise and fall. Come on baby, breathe!
And when it does, relief will flood your body; you’ll chide yourself for being so over-reactionary. The exhilaration of that little breath will have woken you up entirely, but you’re so bone-tired that you’ll fall back into a restless sleep anyway, only to be woken up shortly after by the plaintive wails of said little baby.
And, somehow, restful sleep just kind of never returns to you.
Or maybe that’s just me.
So I’m up at 4:24am. Again. This has become my body’s natural alarm clock lately.
I’ve made my first cup of tea, nearly gone now. I’ve used the peppermint green washcloth hanging on the PVC pipe near the furnace to suck up the extra water created by our furnace that stops the heat from kicking in about 70% of the time until we extract the water from the little runoff dish. Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve ever done this successfully. Like so many things, our furnace recognizes Dr Marry’s competent hands and rumbles up immediately. When I’ve tried this in the past, the furnace kind of spits out an, “As if!” and deliberately ignores me by stubbornly refusing to start up.
I’ve taken to reading in the living room of late. I turn on the fairy lights that frame the big picture window and the little lamp near my great grandma’s overstuffed rockingchair that we had recovered from great big, gaudy 1960s green cabbage roses to a subtle caramel and cream tweed this spring–a COVID project. One of many we either tackled ourselves or paid someone else to take care of.
So, tea in one hand, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird in the other, I’m rocking and reading and warming up. Lilly, my pup is dutifully lying very near me, her favorite place to be regardless where I am in the house, and the silence is glorious.
My phone buzzes at 5:17.
*Warning: an armed suspect is in the area. Stay inside and avoid windows.
I immediately look at the big picture window, invitingly lit up by little white lights, and realize I’ve beautifully framed myself for anyone walking outside to look in, and in this case, take aim.
Now might be a good time to note that I detest curtains.
It might also be important to note that Dr Marry loves curtains.
You can imagine that, particularly on our 14+ years of dog walks, we have spent more than our fair share of time talking about the merits, or lack there of, of curtains as we move through our neighborhood, observing windows either shutting off views to the rest of the house or inviting us to look in.
You’ll be warmer.
They make me feel entombed.
They’ll decrease our heating bill.
What we save in dollars there will have to pay for the therapist I’ll need to deal with the crushing feeling I get about curtains.
They create a cozy environment.
I like to look inside.
Jane Austen had curtains. (That’s a low blow effort to trick me into saying yes, Dr Marry!)
In this particular instance, Jane Austen can suck it.
You get the idea.
But as I reread the emergency alert, I wish for one half of one second that we had curtains. And I hesitate to even write that because Dr Marry will use that sentence against me for the rest of our lives together. But it’s true.
I shut off the little lamp next to me, I uncurl my legs and move to turn off the fairy lights.
Suddenly I can see outside, the stage and audience roles reversed. There is no lurking man, walking with a Rambo-like gun, patrolling through my quiet neighborhood. But the text was unsettling, and I’m not interested in ending up in the crosshairs of a gun.
But I still want to read.
I move to our extra bedroom, the one we call the gold room because of the beautiful metallic paint on the walls. This room is filled with my favorite items from my grandma and grandad’s house: a mustard yellow, velvet chaise lounge, the desk my grandma paid for on layaway in her early 20s, a chest of drawers she painted in black shellack and covered in great big roses cut out of seed catalogs and a skinny peaked bookcase that I yearned for as a child.
I move into that room and sit down on the chaise lounge, which is right next to the windows—a problem in light of the alert’s advice. But in this room, I have made a concession. There are pale green curtains with gold flourish and heavy gold rope to turn them into hourglass shapes. I unknot the gold rope and the curtain opens up, covering the window.
And I feel immediately like all the oxygen has been sucked out of the room. Or at the very least, there’s now a finite amount of oxygen, and every breath I take uses up the precious last…whatevers (drops? molecules?) of oxygen that exists. Never mind that the door is open to the rest of the house, and we don’t live in a vacuum chamber. My chest feels heavy, like a weight has been placed upon it. The walls slowly move in closer, making the space suddenly feel small and getting smaller. Also, because these curtains have been hanging, undisturbed, since I purchased them 14+ years ago, dust floats into the precious oxygen-filled air when I kind of puff them open to cover the windows.
I certainly realize there’s no legitimate comparison between possibly being shot in my own home by a stranger outside and my psychological predisposition against curtains, but I can’t deny that I hate having the curtains shut.
I’ve tuned my ears to listen for the crunching of footsteps outside the windows behind the curtains. I’ve sneezed about 15 times thanks to the dust motes floating in the last (particles?) of oxygen. I’m feeling sleepy as the adrenaline rush of that text wears off, not to mention the dwindling oxygen that is surely affecting my brain. Likely, I’ll nestle into my chaise lounge and grab a little more sleep before Lilly needs to go out and Dr Marry wakes up and we start our day.
No, I’m not sleeping well at all these days.
*An important note: we live in a perfectly lovely, safe, quiet little neighborhood, and this alert was highly unusual. I didn’t read it and have any true concern beyond choosing to heed the advice to move away from the windows. I realize my great good fortune that this is the first time in my life I have been alerted to a dangerous situation where I live. I’m saddened that this is a common occurrence for far too many citizens in this country. Again, I despair at the rabid determination by so many people to uphold the second amendment and allow guns to be such a present, and dangerous, part of our day to day lives.
Dayna you are a natural born storyteller. I am glad you are safe. Among the many rich details and commentary–my favorite moment in this piece is: “In this particular instance, Jane Austen can suck it.” Your humor is divine, and no doubt it has gotten you through many trials and tribulations.
Dayna Del Val
Thanks so much for reading and writing, Catie! I didn’t find that sentence nearly as funny when I wrote it as I did in re-reading your quoting of it. I laughed out loud when I read it from you. 🙂