Children, Love, Parenting

Happy 100 Days: 26

In the two and a half years since my husband and I split, sleep has eluded me. A night or two of peace might pop by for a brief visit before fractured restlessness moves in for an extended stay. It is relentless. Anyone who suffers from insomnia knows the agony of half-functioning (if even half) for days on end. Usually the affliction doesn’t strike someone whose life is straightforward, so the difficulty of everyday tasks is compounded by the strained cognitive and physical function of sleep deprivation.
In the past year, I can remember one deep, delicious night where slumber was down in the lowest cave, safe and silent, exactly as it should be. I still remember the stunned feeling of waking the next morning, fogged and groggy and perfectly thrilled that the sun was halfway up in the sky. A single June night over six months ago. It was that good.
The night came to me as a surprise gift on a Pennsylvania hillside after a long day on the road. Bug, Giovanni and I had packed up the Jeep and headed out in the direction of Lake Erie. We tried to make our way into Baltimore to see the ships and found ourselves foiled by crowds. To quiet Bug’s disappointed sobs, we stopped at a McDonalds instead. He was still young enough that two Happy Meals were a fair trade for tall ships.
We found a state park with a lake and a playground and a gazillion kids. It was summer. We swam and warmed in the sun, Giovanni and I taking turns keeping an eye on Bug in the brown water teeming with humans with no lifeguard on duty. It was like vacationing on the Ganges. Bug loved every second of it. We drove on, following the map to another state park with the small triangular icon. We called ahead, found out sites were available, and pulled in a little before dark.
Bug was tired and testy, I was ready to stretch, and Giovanni was focused with laser precision on putting the tent up before dark. We all tripped and sniped over each other. Bug and I fussed and eventually made our way to the bath house as much to give Giovanni room to finish as for us to clean up. When we stumbled back, the tent was up, the fire was blazing, and the camp chairs were warming in the amber glow. Giovanni’s fingers were already striking the steel strings. Wagon Wheel lifted up to the topmost branches.
Somewhere in that deepening dusk, I hear the first whipporwill of my life. We all stopped together and listened to the call, another, back again. Whip-POOR-will. The cry was as unique as my son’s sigh.
Bug and I crawled into the tent first. We read and sang by lantern light and he fell asleep pushed up against me. Giovanni came in soon after and tucked himself around me from the back. We three, a row of spoons cast on a rocky Pennsylvania hilltop, died out long before the embers from the fire.
Even though the clearing was on a slight incline covered in sharp stones, even though Giovanni and Bug both let their jaws fall open and their snores rattle the tent flaps, even though the whipporwill called well into the wee hours, sleep came and ferried me away. Nothing remained to be fixed. Nothing needed my attention. Finally, my weary mind could surrender to night.
Wrapped up between my two boys, I was home.
Tonight, I lay down next to my boy and sing him under as I do every night he is here. He is charging me for kisses, droopy-eyed and giggly. “Kiss me again, Mommy,” he says, pressing his soft cheek to my lips. I do as directed. “Now you own me $300,” he grins. Then he turns his lips to me and presses them on my temple, my head, wherever they land.
“How much do I get?” I ask as he breathes and snorts into my skin, drawing out the long moment.
“Nothing! It’s free! Now kiss me again!”
I plant one on his ear.
“Hah! Now you owe me $600!” And by 300s, we make it up to a debt of $1200 before he takes a last breath and drifts off. His mouth falls open against my neck as I sing the final verses of Big Rock Candy Mountain. His snores tickle the song as it rises from my throat.
I’m bound to stay where you sleep all day
I let myself drift off next to him for a few delicious moments. Oh, sweet surrender. What freedom it is to believe there is nothing left to do!  In this place right here, maybe it’s possible that everything is as it should be.
Now, it’s just Bug and me. My boy. No one slipping his arms around me from behind. The cocoon into which I can tuck my love and my wishes was just a husk, after all. As such things do, it fell away when it was time to hatch. Still. I remember that night. I remember when I slept because everything was in its place. My man, my boy, me.
Now, I get to learn to create that quiet place just for the two of us. On my own, I will tackle what is perhaps the third of my twelve labors. I kiss my sleeping boy (he can’t charge me for this one) and decide to believe I am capable of small miracles. I can make us a home. I can give us our sweet rest.

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