There are few lights at two-thirty in the morning. From my bed, I see shines from streetlights covered up by the window shade trying to breathe the dim-lit fight against the dark. Mostly I see the light flowing from the right diagonal corner of the living room. A monkey at the base with no shade to cover, it points into my eyes when I can’t sleep. The monkey-light is the first I see as I crack my back trying to find a comfortable spot on the bed. As I move around, not awake but far enough from sleep, my eyes focus on the dimly lit dining room light. Somehow, the ancient chandelier finds more effort in the night than in musters during dinnertime. Between the monkey light and the glass candelabra lies enough lumination to keep a man’s eyes open.
There’s never enough room as I stretch my legs and find my eyes looking through the bedroom corridor. A little boy lies at my feet; a little girl curled up upside-down in the center, a cat in an open corner and my wife far away enough that I can’t put my arm around her or lay my head upon her chest. I know she’s there as I hear her snore. Sometimes that is enough. I crunch my head against a pillow or four and look out into the light. The records nailed to the dining room wall provide a little night music. “Chewy Chewy” by the Ohio Express, “New Juke Box Hits” by Chuck Berry and “Doctorin’ the TARDIS” by the Time Lords. Their songs don’t play for me as much as remind me of where I was and where I am now. An album is a collection of songs. The bed is a collection of people. As I spin around trying to crack my back into the spot which will provide slumber, it’s hard not to notice the past nailed to the wall contrasted with the future asleep on the bed.
The monkey-light illuminates a picture of the late Bob Clampett and his animated subjects Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Beany and Cecil and the enigmatic Do-Do. A monument to years of Saturday morning cartoons with nothing to do but stare at the TV after breakfast. It didn’t end there. Before the bus would pick me up on school days, there was a 6 AM wake-up of Looney Tunes followed by Deputy Dowg. The picture is a frame of my past, of a time when joy was just a click away and alarm clocks weren’t necessary. It was fun just getting up for the adventure.
On the adjacent wall shined by the monkey-light is a poster for the film “Swingers.” Vince Vaughn, young and cocky, toasts the joy of being on your own, in your twenties, careless and not generally giving a damn. It is my wife’s poster but it might as well be mine. In terms of thought, we were both there. The party is awesome, sexy and glamorous. We wanted to be there in the clubs, in the thick of the crowd. To dance and jump without a care and babble about whatsonothings with a friend or someone you don’t even know. The joy was in the adventure. To find someone who toasts your drink and dances beside you. The adventure is fun but it’s a lot like the Temple of Doom. It’s a great ride but in the end, you just want to get off.
As I try to find a place for myself in a bed filled with people and a cat, I saw myself in those pictures. Why should I be so eager to get to sleep and get out of this? Is there any reason I should get up, turn on the TV and watch the Fugitive for the thirtieth time? Is there anything to gain from sitting up and becoming frustrated at the lack of sleep? I look around my small part of the bed and I realized all the calm I needed was already there. Getting up to replenish a sippy-cup or grabbing the extra blanket isn’t as fun as a cocktail or a cartoon but it is far more fulfilling. There’s only so much time we have in the world. I found it best to enjoy the adventure, even if the mission just requires finding a lost teddy bear.
The crowded bed only lasts so long. Time will pass and the passengers will ride to their own destination. The cuddling little boy and girl might make that choice or the decision could be made for them. Either way, the time is fleeting. As I get kicked awake and take a sip of a super-sugary juice, I’m always aware it could be the last. The last kick in the middle of the night, the last sippy-cup, the last nightmare needing a hug. Eventually, the crowd of five will shrink. My son will drift off into a room filled with Legos, games and the dreams a young boy has. My daughter will take her plastic cooking and laughter into a room of her own. The cat? Who knows where he will choose to lay his lazy head. The bed of five will soon become two. The two left, still holding on to each other and all they have been through, will eventually be one. Such is the way of things, the circle of life, the universe and whatnot.
As I lay awake, I don’t question insomnia for one second. It’s a blessing to see the light throughout the night. I get kicked in the middle of a dream by a child just wanting to know I’m there. I think about a glass of water and the bathroom enough to get up and make it so. When I make my way back, they’ve taken my spot. It would be easy to shore up on the couch and surf through AMC movies and reruns of “Roseanne.” I could fall into the bed in the kids’ room but I’m reminded it is still empty. So I hop over toys with my feet and jump into a bed with no room. Everyone is there. I scrunch up into the corner. I lay on my back even though I never sleep that way. I stretch my arm to feel my wife. She’s there, hugging into the circle, that’s all that matters. At the middle of our feet is a little boy, between us is a little girl. They want our love. Between us, we’ll give all we can.
I guess there comes a time where we have to separate this utopia. As I clench my back and pull a blanket up, I ask myself why does this happen? Why do we force our children into a bedroom of loneliness? It has occurred to me that when I was as a child, my times spent lonely in a room were filled with thoughts of wanting someone special to share it with. Granted, my room was next to trees that scratched against the windows and flashed their menace during a thunderstorm. But when my daughter gets scared of the unknown noises and cries for a hug, who am I to deny her? Who am I to deny me of being scared for her? As we grow up, we find our own way. There’s no need to force it, it just sort of happens. She’ll go up into her room filled with pixie dust and neon magic. My son will wage battle in a fort of Legos, swords and knights without the need of his father to protect him. These adventures are going to happen. They don’t need to start now, this second. You guys are still here as I toss and turn. I still have one more night with my babies.
I crack my back and stare into the living room light again. It shines on a room that is part me, my wife and my kids. Bugs Bunny, Vince Vaughn, Little People, castles and princesses. I’m happy to be here, in the middle of the night. I want to be awake the next night just to see it all again. I wiggle myself to the side of the bed facing the wall. I draw a door with a smiley face with my index finger, put my head on a warm pillow, close my eyes to the heavens and I’m gone.