Because The Night
I had a dream the other night that Richard and I moved to the country. There was a huge farm next door, so we took Violet to visit the neighbors. Suddenly there were tons of people showing up at this farm, getting on tram cars that took you on a tour of the acreage.
We got separated from Violet and I could see her far away on another tram car. She was safe, with people we knew, and having a good time. Then something happened and she hurt herself and started crying. I went to jump off our tram to get on hers, but ours started moving, so I couldn’t get to her. I watched her from afar as someone else kissed her better and she started smiling again. There’s something eerie about watching your child when she doesn’t know you’re watching. It’s kind of like catching a glimpse of yourself in a public mirror. Familiar but distant, slightly disturbing. I felt relieved that she was smiling again, but upset that she wasn’t on our tram car, enjoying this experience with us.
I’ve had many, many nightmares about Violet since she came into our lives. In one, I tattooed her entire face thinking it was a fantastic idea only to be admonished by a friend who said, “Don’t you think that’s a decision she should have made herself?” I woke up in a cold sweat, slowly letting the huge relief of reality wash over me. In another she had contracted some incurable disease and I could only watch her suffer in pain. I woke up crying, with a terrible headache. Again, the relief of reality was welcome.
This day, I woke up to Violet’s face in my face, her hair all Johnny Thunders:
“It’s morning time! Get up Mom!”
She had a big scratch across her nose that her friend Amalie had given her by accident when tweaking her nose at school. I immediately thought, Am I a terrible mother who’s missing my daughter’s young life by sending her to pre-school?
Then we got on with breakfast and I moved on. As I drove her to school I came to the conclusion that I’m not a terrible mother, but that I am missing a lot of her life by sending her to school. I also thought about what happens to your brain at night when you’re sleeping, what crazy narratives get created from scraps of reality.
For most of my life I’ve woken up with tremendous anxiety. It would usually go away by the time the tea was made, but it was definitely a bad feeling. It wasn’t until I started meditating that I realized you can actually wake up feeling fine emotionally. It occurred to me a few months ago when Violet was having night terrors, that I should start showing her how to fill her head with good thoughts before bed, so maybe she could avoid this whole dark cloud gathering that went on in my life.
So now before bed each night, I ask her what she’s going to dream about. But last night I forgot. So after I got settled in my bed, I heard her jumping down from her bed, then her little feet in the hallway. Soon she was in my doorway.
“Mom, I’m going to dream about popsicles tonight.”
“Oh, that’s great! I’m glad. We forgot to say what we’re going to dream about.”
She headed back to her room. I heard her climb into bed.
“Mom?” Our rooms are pretty close together, so we can have conversations across the hall. This time I happened to be writing in my journal, so I could document a bit of it. “Do we have straws, or no?”
“Straws? No, I think I threw out all the straws when we moved.”
“Mom? Gum is spicy.”
“What happens if you swallow your gum?”
“Well, it goes into your stomach.”
“Then what happens?”
“It stays there for years sometimes because your stomach acids can’t break it down. If you throw up, it comes out.”
“You can choke on it, right?”
“It’s sleepytime honey. Let’s close our eyes, okay?”
“Okay, but mom?”
“It’s best not to eat gum. Or cockroaches. Cockroaches give you a heart attack if you eat them.”
“Only in that one movie. Cockroaches don’t usually give people heart attacks.”
“Does it take a long time to die? Like a quick heart attack or miles and miles of time?”
“Well, there are a lot of ways to die, honey, but we can talk about that another time. It’s bedtime right now. We’re going to sleep.”
“Do earwigs crawl in your ear, Mom?”
Silence. This is a question I’ve answered many times and she knows the answer. But my silence doesn’t stop her.
“I don’t know if earwigs like blood. Blood is serious to drink. I don’t know if robots eat oil though. That’s pretty crazy. But how do you know when it rains? Mom, when does it rain?”
“It’s bedtime honey.”
“But when does it rain?”
“I can’t predict when it rains. It rains when it rains.”
“It rains when the clouds are full.” I have to admit, that’s better than my answer.
“Mom, I’m looking at that dress. You know, the flower one from Ursula? What’s the other girl?”
“Your cousins – Ursula and Astrid.”
“That’s right, mom. Ursula and Ostrich.”
“Yes, Ursula and Ostrich.”
“Mom! Mom! Is that Daddy?”
“It might be.”
Ten seconds pass.
“I guess I was mistaken. I don’t think it’s Daddy.”
“Yeah, I was mistaking too.”
“You have sweet dreams, okay?”
“Okay mom, I’m going to dream about popsicles and I’m also going to dream about you and me drinking smoothies. Strawberry.”
And then, sleep.
And to reward those of you who read the whole blog, Patti Smith sings about the night: