The muse that comes in the night - FamilyEducation

The muse that comes in the night

February 19,2008

A friend asked me over the weekend how I manage to juggle everything I do and find time to write on a daily basis.  She was envious, she told me, of how I carved out blocks of time during the day to write.  But I set her straight right away by telling her that I don't at all have the writing life she imagines: hours to myself holed away in some quiet room of my own (ha--wouldn't that be a dream!). Instead, my thoughts and ideas percolate in my head for hours and days and weeks, even, like sentences scribbled on the backs of receipts and scrap paper until they suddenly come together in some semblance of order and thoughts meet time and I'm able to write.

Most of my ideas for blog posts come to me out of the dark--literally--as I lie in bed next to my winding-down kids. T. is easy: she rolls and chatters a little, likes her room to be dark and her blankets pulled up around her in a warm nest, just the way I like it myself. She is often asleep in a matter of minutes; so quickly that I can't ever mark the exact moment she moves from being awake to being asleep.  Not all that long ago really, I used to be such an expert at determining the exact moment--down to the very second--she fell asleep.  When she nursed, her eyes would turn a little glassy and the lids would droop; the sucking would slow and stop and she'd be in a semi-sleeping state, mouth open a little, breathing heavy, before she'd sink deeper into sleep. Now it happens in the dark, in her private little world and I'm left to my thoughts, all the images and impressions and feelings fighting for some sort of order in my own unwinding mind.

When I lie next to my son things are different.  I leave him in his bed awake, but until then he moves a lot, flopping from side to side, kicking his sleeping bag and blankets away from his legs, then he's back in the bag again, then out, and so on. Before I had children I never really imagined I would become such an integral part of their bedtime routines; that I'd come to know their sleeping, or almost-sleeping selves--so well. This weekend I found an old video clip on one of our CDs--we downloaded all our family pictures and videos a couple months ago when the hard drive on our old PC crashed.  In it T. is about 8 or 9 months old, standing up in her crib, and she's wearing her hey-diddle-diddle sleeper, the one she wore for a ridiculously long time because she just stubbornly refused to grow out of it. I would use that sleeper as a type of gauge to measure my parental angst and despair about why she was growing so slowly.

Look! I'd exclaim to Scott, pulling it out of the drawer when the weather warmed up a little--again.  Look!  I bet she can STILL wear it!  And sure enough, she could wear it again and I'd sigh, buttoning up the sleeper around her little tummy, sad to see it again, those faded cows and moons back for another season.

In the video clip I came across this weekend T. is ready for bed. Her fluffy duck hair is slicked back from her bath and her room is dim--it's dark outside.  We are off-camera, talking to her in those high-pitched silly voices parents adopt when they're trying to get their small children to do something cute--something about to be recorded for posterity.  

It's time for night-night! We tell her, and she laughs back at us, a gummy smile with two small white teeth poking out of her lower gum. Time for night-night!

Anyone watching the clip would think that soon after the camera turned off so did her light, and they might imagine us tiptoeing out of her room and into the hallway, our night-nights fading behind us as we closed her bedroom door.  But I know what really happened that night.  Scott left to tend to L. and I scooped T. out of her crib, nestling her sweet warm body close to mine.  I sat in the glider with her, rocking her and smelling her damp head as she gurgled and pulled at my cheeks, winding down for sleep.  I sat in the dark with a thousand thoughts in my head elbowing each other for a chance to get out. I rocked and thought and dreamed a little, I'm sure, until sleep encircled T. like a blanket and my own mind awakened, releasing its words, ready to write.