I don’t sleep well when Tighe’s out of town. I usually fall asleep without a problem, exhausted from arguing logic with illogical minds, which is basically my job description in a nutshell. But then I tend to wake at every little sound.
Because I have to. Tighe’s not there. It’s my job to protect the house against burglars, murderers, rapists, miscellaneous bogeymen, and all types of nefarious rodents. I’ll lay there awake in my bed in the wee hours as I try to determine the source of a sound—are the chipmunks clawing through the exterior walls into our bedroom? Did the furnace just kick on? Or is villain about to kick down the door?
And I know what you’re thinking, but no, Wally’s no help. If he managed to defend us at all, it’d be an accident—he’d be so excited to greet someone he’d knock them over and they’d crack their head open on a matchbox car. Ok, so maybe he would be helpful.
But I can’t count on it. Instead, I lie in bed plotting my next move. If it’s a cat burglar, he can take whatever he wants from the first floor. In fact, take all of the toys, every single one. I’m sick of picking them up seven or eight times a day. I’m sick of Nate and Sam squabbling over them.
Now, if it’s a murderer, I’ve got to get my robe on because we’re going to have to evacuate the house, and it’s cold outside. I start to envision myself scooping Nate up under one arm, Sam under the other, and sprinting with an awkward lopsided gait down the middle of Ward Parkway. I start to wonder whose bedroom I should go into first, and whether lighting a small fire or tossing a brick at the murderer’s head would cause more of a distraction while we escape into the night. Where do we keep our stash of bricks?
If it’s a ghost causing the ruckus, there’s not much I can do. I’ll just call some legendary comedic actors in the morning. I just really hope it’s not a vampire. They’re fast, and I’m pretty sure they can fly. I’m not confident I could defeat him. Or her.
And there’s always a chance—though that chance is probably diminishing by the day—that it’s a government agency sneaking into our house to plead with me to go on a super top-secret mission for America. Very Cold War, very chic, very badass. If that’s the case, I’ll have to call Maggie to see if she can babysit. Of course, she has school in the morning. I wonder if she can miss her first couple classes…
Anyway, these thoughts keep me up most of the night, in between an occasional interruption from Nate—he had a bad dream, he can’t find “little monkey,” he needs to pee, whatever—and I eventually drift into a dreamy sleep until Sam starts slamming doors at 6 AM.
One recent night when Tighe was in Las Vegas for “business,” Nate woke me up from a very heavy slumber at 1:30 AM to tell me he was scared, which I find hard to believe because he’s young—he doesn’t even know all the terrible things that can happen in the middle of the night! He doesn’t know about ISIS, Ebola, the projected cost of college tuition, or the Pittsburgh Steelers! Anyway, I led him back to bed and arranged all his guys on the pillow around him, and he was snoring again within seconds.
I trudged back to my bed to commence my worrying. The usual thoughts returned, plus some new ones. Did I blow out that candle on the mantle? Do we have a carbon monoxide leak? Are any tornadoes scheduled for tonight? Am I itchy? Do we have fleas?
I contemplated taking a sleeping pill but didn’t want to feel hungover in the morning. So I lay there, and the minutes and hours ticked by on the clock until it was 5:30 AM. Suddenly, I heard a thud.
Then crying. Nate.
I lept from my bed, heart racing, and grabbed my robe. I met him in the hall where he wailed about bad dream. I fumbled. I was exhausted from exchanging my precious sleep for irrational anxiety.
“How about you just come sleep in my bed?”
Oooh. I winced as soon as the words came out of my mouth. He’s never slept in our bed before! Am I setting a precedent? Is this a slippery slope? Will he suddenly want to do this every night? Are we going to lose sleep trying to undo this behavior?
Oh, well. I just wanted him to stop crying—I couldn’t risk him waking Sam, too!
So, we climbed into our bed, and again, within seconds, he was snoring, his mouth ajar, and his arms clutching his blanket and his monkeys.
I started to drift off again and figured if I could just get about thirty solid minutes of sleep, I’d be okay for the day. Maybe I’ll just have a little extra coffee in the afternoon. And if Sam takes a good nap, maybe I can lay down for a few minutes before Nate comes home from school.
Then, suddenly: SLAM!
Sam. He can climb out of his crib, but he can’t open his bedroom door from the inside of his room. A dexterity problem, I think. Or maybe it’s just an old house with finicky fixtures. First thing in the morning, he travels through the Jack-and-Jill bathroom into Nate’s room. And in the process, he always slams both bathroom doors. Always.
I jumped out of bed again, glancing at the clock, as I glided quickly out of the room. 6:15. Ugh. Too early to get up. But not early enough to force him back to bed.
By the time I met him in Nate’s room, he was standing at the foot of the bed. His face was illuminated by Nate’s two nightlights and I could see that he was alarmed that Nate wasn’t in his bed.
“Where Nate go?” That is literally the first time I’ve ever heard him whisper.
“He’s sleeping. Do you want to get in your bed?”
“Uh-huh.” He slid into his future twin bed, parallel to Nate’s bed on the far side of the room.
I climbed into Nate’s bed a few feet away for a few more minutes of rest. I opened one eye to gaze at Sam. His eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling, and I wondered what was going through his head: What did she do with Nate? Why is she in Nate’s bed? This is highly unusual. Am I worried? What’s worry?
I decided I needed to comfort him.
“Can I sleep with you, Sam?” I got up and moved to the other bed. As I pulled up the comforter and moved to lay down, he scooted out the other side and climbed into Nate’s bed.
Ok, this is officially weird. We’re playing Early Morning Musical Beds. I lifted my head from the Thomas the Tank Engine pillowcase, and realized I was now safe from all the miscellaneous bogeymen of the night. I had bigger problems to face.
I motioned for Sam to follow me and we crept down the steps, careful not to wake Nate, still asleep in my bed.
Once downstairs, Sam ran to turn on the TV, another gadget he doesn’t know how to use: “Dora! Dora! Dora! Swiper, no swiping!” He yelled like an East Berliner, thrilled to finally be reunited with his West German relatives after the thaw. And anxious to learn Spanish for some reason.
As he began to call out his breakfast order—most of which he’d never eat—I flashed back to my reality just a few hours before: protecting my children against sadistic maniacs…defeating villains with lightsabers, or nunchuks, or a plastic golf club—whatever we had laying around…going deep undercover in the Soviet bloc.