Sounds and Random Ramblings

Random ramblings. That’s what follows a post about insomnia.

String together several lousy nights of sleep and what you get is a quasi-functioning robot, who drives, walks and talks. The lights are on but no one’s home.

Saturday I was tired and zombified. My mom offered to take the kids and we arranged a hand-off at a little church fair that afternoon. The church has been hosting the event for 137 years and not much has changed since it began. Glance around at the weathered wooden booths, the penny candy games and the jousting competition, and — I’m telling you — it elicits a Back to the Future moment. Suddenly I’m whisked back 50 years.

The kids took about a minute to slip out of sight. Brynn was pretty easy to find. She’d snuck under a table at a game booth and was raiding the prize box, stuffing plastic toys down the front of her diaper (her solution when she’s without pockets).

Well, there’s one kid, I thought, scanning the crowd. I wasn’t too concerned. A small-town church where everyone’s neighbors? Pretty low risk on the lost-kid meter.

At that very moment I heard a whump! and a horse with an empty saddle trotted by. By my feet rested a jousting contestant. He was an older man and flat on his back, his lance pointing straight up as if he planned to spear a cloud. Turns out, he just had the wind knocked out of him. By the time I’d disarmed him, others were there to help him up.

But while I was distracted, Brynn snuck off. Fortunately Mom arrived. She helped with the round-up and carted the kids away. I went home and napped.

For five hours.

I napped the equivalent of a cross-country flight. I closed my eyes mid-afternoon and woke at 8 pm. At sunset. Utterly disoriented.

“Hey there,” Martin said from the couch. “Welcome back.”

I stumbled outside to get my bearings. The sun was orange and pink, hunkered over the trees, the air was still and I could hear a band playing —  a concert at a distant vineyard, across the Potomac. I walked up the neighbor’s gravel drive and sat cross-legged by the pine trees. I closed my eyes and listened. The band was covering Tom Petty. “Free Fallin.”

In between music sets, it was quiet and still. So quiet I heard Mel purring in the pine trees. I also heard a hushing sound. A steady huff, huff, huff.

It was the cows. I thought they’d sound like horses, who audibly crop the grass. But what I heard were breaths — as the cows grazed, their heaving breaths whooshed out their noses. The herd, exhaling at different times, sounded like someone scuffing their feet through a thick carpet.

I called the cat and dog home. Then I dragged Martin outside to listen to the band and watch the sunset.

I didn’t ask him to listen to the cows. Too weird.

But when I went to sleep later on, I didn’t count sheep. I thought of cows and carpeting.


A Brief Sleep

Most people don’t think about sleep. Sleep is a routine, nightly occurrence — many recumbent hours in absence of consciousness.

I think about sleep all the time, especially when it dangles out of reach. I’ve dealt with insomnia for years and spent countless wakeful nights wandering the house — sitting on the sidelines while everyone else slumbers.

But I’ve only mentioned insomnia a few times. Talking about my troubles invites others to weigh in with “drink a glass of milk” and “take a hot bath.” Or else they say, “I never have insomnia. I’m too tired and busy not to sleep.”

Ambien is my salve. Admittedly, I’m hooked — and I wish I could sever ties — but that pill’s a promise: my brain will shut down and let me be.

Last week, however, my prescription ran out and I forgot to refill it. Without my little friend, I fell asleep and woke right up again.

So I checked on the kids. I can’t help but gaze at them with raw envy. Nightly at 8:30, they are painted in a thick shellac of sleep. They shut down and go limp like cats, immune to any nocturnal disturbances. No one budges when I turn on the light and slam drawers full of clothes. They can sleep without pillows and blankets. Without a bed. Hadley used to roll out of hers…she’d stay asleep where she fell.

On this particular night I notice that we’ve forgotten Brynn. She goes to sleep in Hadley’s bed — or in rare instances — in Cayden’s top bunk. Martin and I leave her until we turn in, then move her to the crib to ensure her early-morning confinement.

But on this night we both forgot her. I climb up the ladder to snap this photo.

Kids shellacked in slumber.

Then I throw Brynn’s chubby, slack body over my shoulder and carefully descend the ladder. It’s the crib for her. TV for me.

Around 3:30 I decide to try again. I slide under the sheets and miraculously, doze off. I am actually asleep — although I’m too asleep to realize it. It’s only apparent when I’m rousted.

“Hey Mom? Mom, wake up.” I can feel Hadley’s breath on my shoulder. “Mom, are you awake?”

I am now. Awake. Again. “What? What’s the matter?”

“Brynn wants you. She wants to be back in Cayden’s bed.”

I look at the clock. 4:20 am. In the kids’ room, barely visible under the night-light I see Brynn, standing in her crib, motioning toward her brother.

Hadley is already back in bed. Fast sleep.