After writing this post, I realized that a bout of nostalgia has come over me recently. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve spent more time at home and with my family lately, than I have in a few years. Bear with me, I’m sure it will soon pass. Until then- I present to you yet another reflection on life and my childhood.
When I was a little kid, I followed a strict nightly ritual.
My parent’s house used to belong to my great grandparents, so it was quite old, even when I was a child. My sister and I shared a pink tiled bathroom that didn’t have a shower so we always took baths. After a dinner of either cheese and crackers or chicken nuggets, I would spend an hour or so soaking in the tub, playing with My Little Pony’s or pretending that I was a mermaid named Christina.
After my bath, I was allowed to watch about an hour of television. I was never much into cartoons, so I usually chose to watch something on Nick At Night. I would sit through “My Three Sons” or “Leave it to Beaver” if I had to, but my favorites were the ones that had a magical quality to them like “Bewitched,” (the fact that there were TWO Darrens always confused me) “I Dream of Jeannie,” or my all time favorite, “Mork and Mindy.”
After pleading “tennn morrree minutesss” at least 3 times, I would finally sulk my way to my bedroom, where I would put on a long nightgown and a pair of socks, one of which I would inevitably lose at some point in the night. I then went around to each of the dolls and toys around my room, kissed them, told them I loved them, then made sure that their faces were turned away from my bed so that they wouldn’t be able to see that I had chosen a different toy to sleep that night. I always slept with a brown teddy bear that my Grandma had given me, along with one other doll, which was usually my Mork doll. What can I say? I guess I had a thing for funny weird guys, even at an early age.
At this point, one of my parents would either read or tell me a story, but my dad always had the honor of tucking me in. We would start with a prayer. If I remember correctly it went something like, “Dear Jesus, Thank you soooooooooooooo much for everything. I love you soooooooo much. Please take care of my mommy, my daddy, my sister, my grandaddy, my grandmommy, my other grandma, my other grandpa, my cousin Andi, my cousin James… ect ect ect. Thank you sooooooo much for food, school, dance lessons, Mork and Mindy, Teddy Ruxpin, my daddy, my mommy, my sister, my grandaddy… ect ect ect.” At the time I was actually quite sincere with my praying, but I also have to admit that I may have been using my time with Jesus to evade sleep just a little bit longer.
In the telling, this part gets a little weird, even by my standards. Not creepy weird, but weird as in my nightly tuck-in ritual was more of a secret handshake between my father and I than your standard “hug and kiss” tuck in. There were a few times I can remember when my dad was out of town and my mom would attempt to fill-in but it was never the same.
Big hug, little hug. Big kiss on the left cheek, Little kiss on the left cheek. Big kiss on the right cheek, little kiss on the right cheek. Leg hug. Butterfly kiss with each eye, and then lastly, Eskimo kiss.
He would then prop the door open with a large rock (my dad is a geologist so we have them lying around everywhere) and that’s when my real night would begin.
I would lie in bed, still as a corpse for at least ten minutes, or until I heard my parent’s shut their bedroom door. I had learned early on to keep a heavy stock of flashlights that I found in various drawers around the house hidden in my room. I would tip-toe across the room, grab one, then run-tip-toe back to my bed where I would either play pretend that I was camping in the wilderness, or I would read. Even before I really even knew how to read, I would make up stories to go with the pictures, partially because I knew that my parents (the cool kids) did in their bed.
After about 30 minutes or so, my dad would come in and check on me. Usually I was able to turn off the light and feign sleep quickly enough, but quite often he caught me in the middle of an intense Indian invasion and I would get a stern talking to, and be put back in bed.
Once I was caught or had grown tired of playing pretend, I turned off the light and genuinely tried to sleep, but even then it wasn’t easy for me. Life got about 3,000 times more tricky once the lights went off, because that’s when the monsters came out. Duh. I had to roll my self up in my comforter because I lived in constant fear that a monster would eat off my limbs if I left them out in the open. Whenever I went to the bathroom, I had to do jump as far out from my bed as I could get so that the monster under there wouldn’t grab me and pull me under. And then once I got to the toilet there was no time for wiping or flushing, because of course there was also the monster that lived in the toilet that would pull me in if I sat there for too long. Then I would retreat back to bed where I would eventually fall asleep, and dreamt mostly of cock roaches or the Jabberwalky.
As I grew older, I started losing bits and pieces of my nightly ritual. Five minute showers replaced hour long baths. I started watching Beverly Hills 90210 instead of Nick at Night. My dad stopped tucking me in, and goodnight stories and shared prayers were replaced by a quick “goodnight.” All the toys and dolls were boxed up and stored in the attic. Long, frilly, nightgowns were replaced with shorts and a t-shirt. Instead of staying up with hidden flashlights, I stayed up on hidden phones that I plugged in and talked on for hours on after my parent’s went to sleep. The monsters were still there, but in the form of worries about school, boys, and whether or not I would get a part in the community theater play.
In more recent years, the last remnants of my nightly ritual have all but disappeared. I’ve spent many nights playing board games, writing in journals and blogs, watching movie marathons, and drinking until late in the night. I usually sleep in a t shirt and whatever dirty pants are in eye sight when I crawl into my bed. I don’t say goodnight to anyone, except occasionally my roommate or to the internet via twitter. I’ve spent most of my nights making sure that I’m too tired to have a thought, much less worries by the time I hit the hay.
The last few weeks I’ve been trying to get back into a ritual. I’ve gotten back into working out. I’ve started reading and taking baths again. I’ve refrained from drinking during the week. I’ve started painting and watching movies on a nightly basis. But still they’re there. Those damn monsters. My fears of life, money, decisions, and what the next day… the next year… the next decade will bring. I’m not sure how the normal people fight these thoughts, but I’ve made it my goal to conquer them once and for all.
So bear with me if I’m a little moody for the next few weeks, as I am likely to get much sleep until I figure out how. But for now, I’m going to get into bed and read the bedtime stories that my grandfather has written out for me. I’ll probably share a few of those too.
Goodnight world. And Let’s just hope tonight it’s a dream about my boyfriend John Cusack and not one about my current financial state.
And only slightly related, a scene from one of my most favoriteist movies of all time… The Science of Sleep…