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When all else fails, count children to get to sleep

Eight hours ago my body collapsed in a heap of exhaustion. My eyes wouldn't stay open another second, and I begged my husband to turn off the light and read the last page of his book by the illumination of moonbeams.

I soundly slept, until our eldest son came to ask if I had seen his pet rock. My eyes fluttered open as I tried to grasp the essence of his emergency. With irritation I told him that he didn't feed it and it died.

Not one minute passed before I began drifting off again. Not five minutes passed before another small soul stood at my bedside burning open my closed lids with his stare. I jerked awake at the strange sensation of being watched.

He whispered, "Did you hear that scratching sound?"

"What?" I said in confusion.

"That weird noise, Mama. It sounded like scratching or something. I'm scared. Can I sleep in your room?"

Before I said "Sure," I heard his sleeping bag zipper dragging across the wood floor. He turned in circles, like a dog, trying to arrange his nest just right.

The commotion died down, and I waited for sleep to return. It did not. I lay in the dark listening to my bedmate's erratic snoring and strange mouth smackings and became a human conduit for absurd thoughts, stressful images, bumps in the night, and anxious wonderings. (Not to mention musing about muzzling my partner.)

Six hours ago, in an attempt to distract myself, I sang old camp songs in my head. I don't recommend this strategy. Inevitably, after brain humming two or three, one lodges itself in the crevices of the cerebral cortex and refuses to stop playing. Tonight "He was a gay desperado from hmm hmm hmm way down in hmm hmm hmhm, and he hmmed around just like a big hmm, and everywhere he hmm he hmmed his war whoop," repeated like a perverted version of Chinese water torture.

Four hours ago I resolved to call my old camp and get the lyrics. I put that on the to-do list I now kept in my head: 1. Get the words to that stupid song, 2. Find the pet rock, 3. Dislodge the dime that fell into the crack of the dryer door two years ago, 4. Ask Allen the punch line to that joke about the snail, 5. Find out what Pheobe from Friends does these days since the show ended . . .

My list grew out of control, as did my anxiety over my capacity to remember it until morning. I continued to repeat it to myself, like a mantra, after each addition, but I feared it would slip from my conscious mind if I didn't write it down.

Three hours ago I put pen to paper. What was number three? Oh yes, the dime. Maybe I could get that out tonight. So I rummaged in the bathroom for the tweezers, and ended up cleaning out the medicine cabinet. I couldn't decide if I ought to throw out a bottle of aspirin from 1983 and, with malice, considered waking my snoring sidekick to ask. A fleeting moment of lucidity prevented me; thus he snored on.

Two hours ago, I surfed insomniac websites for help. Doctors and pharmacists look down upon people who call them at 4:30 a.m. for a prescription for Ambien. So I read the strange and unintelligible cogitations of the severely sleep deprived.

One hour ago, I felt drowsy again.

As an anonymous non-sleeper observed, "Nothing cures insomnia like the realization that it's time to get up."



Web posted on Thursday, September 9, 2004


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