one by one, we all got, er, cozy
so much for that grand notion.
the one that had me climbing, all alone, into bed on a chilly, drizzly autumn’s night. the one that had me hauling along a stack of books, turning pages till well past the midnight hour.
with my night thoughts unbroken.
the big boys, you see, are far away. were rumbling–as i climbed the stairs, climbed into bed–cross the countryside, on the rails, headed off to university, the first of many college visits for my boy who’ll soon be shipping off.
well, summer after next anyway, and in a mother’s heart that is soon all right. sooner than i’d ever thought it would come.
i’d known for weeks that this one rare weeknight would be mine. alone. (or did i already say that?)
had played that most seductive game of duck-duck-will-it-be-a-movie, a weepy girl flick? or will it be a pile of books and magazines?
the latter won, in large part because i’d been feeling achy all day long, hadn’t made it to the little shop where all the films are stored like cracker boxes on a grocery shelf. you walk the aisles, eye the labels, decide which brand makes your tummy growl the loudest. then dash home to swallow whole, fast as you can tear open the wrapper. movie or cracker, it’s often much the same.
and so, in anticipation of this rare bedtime treat, the adventure of keeping the bed lamp burning till i darn well wanted to click it off, not just till i get elbowed in the flank by a grumpy, sleepy fellow with pillow pulled atop his head, i did all that needed to be done:
i scurried the little one up and under the sheets. kissed him twice, once to seal the deal, next to paste him into place, there where he belonged, drifting off to dreamland all on his own.
then i tiptoed back down the stairs, gathered up my night’s diversions, clicked off the lights. bid the quiet house good night.
heard the cat meowing at the door. let him in from all the nasty drizzle.
headed back toward the stairs. brushed my teeth. alone. savored sharing neither sink nor toothpaste.
slid beneath the puffy covers. piled the pillows, all just so.
hauled my books onto my stretched-out, pajama-covered, oh-so-tired legs.
heard the sound of footsteps, padding cross the hall.
saw a little face, smiling, peeking round the corner.
felt my heart go limp, in that way it does when plain old love washes over you.
when the face you see is one you often can’t say no to. certainly can’t turn away, when the words that come from that perfect little mouth are ones that softly plea: “can we have cuddles?”
and so, i made some room. told him he could stay, long as he didn’t mind the sound of me turning pages.
wasn’t long, not a paragraph later, that we then both heard–the midnight cuddler and i–the pit-a-pat of cat paws, coming closer and closer, up the stairs and round the bend, somehow knowing where the cuddling was, in a house with just one light on.
and then the pounce, which made the bedsheets shake.
and suddenly, it seemed, the night alone was lost.
reminded me of some children’s tale, where all the sleepy folk, and barnyard critters too, piled in one bed. until the bed collapsed, and down did crash the whole darn napping house.
if we’d had a cow, i suppose she too would have been mooing right on top of us.
oh, goodness me, i gasped, here in my very own four-poster bed, we had quite a slumber party going on, complete with giggles and meows. and all i’d hoped for was no more ruckus than comes with a mad dash of words inhaled one atop the other.
so much for mama time.
so much for all those minutes spent weighing one morsel or the other.
so much for the unbroken count that now continues, the long, long stretch of nights since i’ve had time alone. (staying up till three, for the mere sake of being the only one awake in a crowded house, certainly doesn’t count, for that is a torturous way to arrive at solitude.)
but i suppose that’s the shift i’ve signed up for here. that unfettered reality of motherhood that time to yourself comes not on your terms, but on rare colliding circumstance that might, maybe, if you’re really really lucky, find you home alone in the middle, perhaps, of a tuesday afternoon. when there’s little chance that you’ll get to make the most of it, because well the dryer is squawking, and the school bus will rumble by any minute, so why plop on the couch because you’ll have to pop back up any nanosecond. why sink into a long and winding sentence because it will end, abruptly, when sneakered feets bound in the door, with plenty to tell you all about the school day.
if there’s any truth here, in the land of motherhood, it’s that selfishness gets shoved aside, nine times outa 10.
because little faces look up at you. arms reach out to you. words come, plain and pure: “can we have cuddles?”
and so, you fling back the covers, you make do with cat hair on your pillow case. (thank God there is no cow.) you drop your pile of books onto the floor, with a declarative thud.
you click out the light.
you wrap your arm round the warm soft little someone curled up beside you.
and you dream the sweetest dreams.
but, before you too slip off to dreamland, perhaps, you console yourself with this scant hope: hmm, there’s one more chance tonight.
that ol’ train won’t rumble back till tomorrow, so perhaps, by the slimmest of possibilities, you might pencil in a date with that ol’ pile of uncracked books. and those thoughts that won’t be broken.
but, of course, you’re smart enough to know: don’t count on it.
how do you steal time for you, and you alone? do you, like me, daydream about the day when what you do from dawn till bedtime will be dictated by nothing other than your very own whims? hmmmm….
ah….”alone time”??? What that might be? Even with my sort of adult children, it is not to be right now. They will still come drape their bodies over whatever available space is near my momentary claimed solitude. It is a variation on their early years when they would be three houses down the street, but knew the nano-second I picked up the phone to make call and they would come running with some reason to interrupt me. That is ok…it will be gone before I know it. In the meantime I still use my old “book escape method.” I learned at an early age to bury my nose in a book so that the “crowd scene” I grew up with (10 people if you include parents) became a distant noise. My family was like a crowd scene in a movie. If you look closely at crowd scenes in some movies it is always the same people walking around, just in different clothes. I couldn’t physically leave, just mentally and emotionally. Thank goodness I loved to read. So there is the ultimate escape.