When I was a kid, it was special to get to stay up late. I remember that our TV shows came on at 7PM. Star Trek. Happy Days. Wonderful World of Disney. We got to stay up late on holidays. New Year’s Eve all the grown ups would go to someone’s house on the block and all the kids would go to another house. We got to stay up until we could bang on the pots and pans. This was long before Dick Clark and the “ball dropping” in Time Square. I remember getting to stay up late during the summer. The rule was that we had to be home when the street lights came on. There were extra special summer nights when we would play flash light tag. In our neighborhood, the city water meters were in the side walks. There were heavy iron lids that we could open up and the water meter would be there along with some frogs. At night, the frog congregated in these places. I was the kind of girl that liked frogs and lizards. Someone usually had a coffee can with a plastic lid that held some creature we hoped to tame or feed or domesticate.
My kids like to stay up late.
Now as an adult, sleep often eludes me. I wish for sleep. I can sleep almost anywhere, but at night I am awake. If I were to just go and lie down, I would probably fall asleep, but I just can’t make it to the point of getting into bed. I can lie down on the floor in my office and be asleep in minutes. I wake 20 minutes later having dreamed. I feel more rested.
I have places I remember sleeping.
The cabins at Camp Winding Creek in Sebring, Florida. Four girls slept to a cabin. Wood floors, cots with thin 2-3 inch mattresses. The screened sides had drop down green corrugated plastic awnings that you could let down and ties closed in a storm.
My dorm room in Letts Hall. I always slept close to the windows. I grew up in Florida. I remember waking to snow piled on the windowsill and curling deeper down into bed. I dreaded having to shower and go to class. I hated leaving that bed.
When I was pregnant with Cameron, I would take naps in the afternoon when I got home from the hospital. Our little cracker house on Woodland Shores Road in Charleston had wood floor and the original sash windows. The long shadows of fall during my second trimester and then in the spring after Cameron was born are vivid to me. Cameron and I would nap together in the weeks immediately after he was born because he was severely jaundiced. And so, we laid in the sun. He and his brother both “slept in” with us as infants. It is still sweet that they occasionally come into our room to snuggle up.
I remember falling asleep at Crandon Park beach. The sound of the water and the people, the radios and the smell of the concession stand french fries and Banana Boat sun tan oil.
During my internship year, I slept in the call room at Universal Medical Center every 4th night. There were 2 twin beds, the matresses flat on the floor. The room was like an ice box, like a morgue. I would fall sleep like Tutankhamen, buried under layers of hospital blankets. I slep in my scrubs, at the ready to be awakened by the Unit or the ER.
I think sleep is delicious and underrated. I think that sleep is precious. Disturbed sleep exacts a toll. Memory, mood and adaptability are all casualties of poor sleep.
I know I stay up at night when the rest of my house is asleep to have space alone. Space in my head that is not attending to my children. Space in the house that is still and quiet. Space in my heart that is open to attending to my soul. Space in my brain to file away the clutter. I don’t fret during these hours. I don’t do chores. Sometimes I watch TV. Sometimes I read. Often I write. I have found a space for myself in the sleepless hours when those around me are asleep.
Now I am ready for bed.