Saturday, December 1, 2012

Late Night Voices

San Pedro, CA circa 1979:

"Hey asleep?"

Mom has separated us.  Again.  It's well past bedtime and our tired mother just wants us to go to sleep.  NOT because she doesn't appreciate how much we love laughing together, not because she doesn't want us to have fun, but because of the aftermath.  She's a single, working mother whose job is a 1/2 hour from where we live and, thanks to the babysitting permit, has to take two children to school 1/2 hour away.  We have to get up super early to get us to school and her to work.  By the time she gets us from the sitter, drives the 1/2 hour home and gets us dinner and into bed, she (and we) are exhausted.  She knows overtired, young twins in the morning will NOT be a pretty picture.  So she's put me in her room and left Lori in ours because we were talking and giggling instead of going to sleep.

"SHHHHHHHH," my sister finally replies.  "We'll WAKE Mom!" 

At last, Lori appears in the doorway.  Mom's separation trick would work... if we would stay in bed.  The two bedrooms in our tiny rental are grouped together at the end of a hallway with the doorways nearly touching.

"GIRLS..." my mom's groggy warning rings through the house.  But she sounds slightly amused too.  I can imagine she's holding back irritation at our disobedience along with a laugh that we thought she could not hear our exaggerated stage whispers and our getting in and out of the beds.  But we have a schedule to keep and she knows sleepy 6 year olds are grumpy, uncooperative 6 year olds in the morning.

Flash forward 33 years to Eugene, Or and I'm the mom listening to talking and giggling, but on a monitor while the kids are upstairs.  At the moment, they're in the same room, but I'm pondering separating them.  At the same time, I remember those nights with my twin, Lori.  The giddiness.  The feeling that you never want to end because it feels so good to bond with your sibling.  The joy of breaking a rule, even a minor one like your bedtime.  The feeling that you've pulled one over on mom.  It's thrilling.

I love children's minds.  Impractical, short memories and the inability to apply more complex cause-and-effect logic.  This is the kind of thinking that makes my children jump off the bed when I've told them not to because they haven't thought through the fact that I KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING even when I'm downstairs.  This is not because I have magic powers, but because it sounds like someone is heaving 40 and 60 pound boulders around my playroom.  This is what makes them say, "Let's play Wipeout!" even AFTER I've warned them that I will have the monitor with me downstairs while I take a quick shower.  This is what enables them to "sneak" out of their rooms early in the morning, turn on the TV and pound their way downstairs and around the kitchen even when I've told them that they can't have screen time while they have their "breakfast snack" on the weekends.  And this is what makes them think, when they are speaking in the same, ridiculously loud stage whispers Lori and I used to use, that I won't hear them say to one another, "We just won't tell mom!"

Tonight I've already played what a friend refers to as "bedtime whack-a-mole" twice.  I went upstairs once to tell Elizabeth to stop getting out of bed to drink gallons of water by filling and refilling a tiny Dixie Cup.  Then I had to go upstairs to talk down my melodramatic son who was convinced a Muppet Band-Aid would magically stop the (one would think from his drama) apparently excessive bleeding caused by the invisible paper cut on his thumb.  But now... the giggling has started.

"You are the cheese to my macaroni," William says to Elizabeth.
"No! You are the cheese to MY macaroni!" is her reply.  Uproarious laughter ensues.
"Dizzy, dizzy, " he's breathless with laughter now, "EYE ball!"
"Bubba," she's laughs right back, "I see your EYE ball!"

They have their own jokes now.  They make each other giggle.  I find them with their heads bent together over the comic books, library books and magazines they have strewn around William's queen-size bed (they never sleep in Dizzy's room) while William reads to her.  I hear stuffed animal battles. I hear them sharing dreams they've had.  I hear them laughing just to laugh and stay awake a bit longer.

There's school tomorrow and I'm thinking I should go up there and separate them.  I think of the aftermath.  The grumpy, slow moving kids I'll have tomorrow.  I'm about to threaten separation when a thought stops me.  I don't have to drive far tomorrow... it's a 7 minute walk to William's school.  Elizabeth can stay in pajamas. I'm an incredibly fortunate wife of 16 years to my best friend.  We live in a large, beautiful house, the likes of which I could not have fathomed when I was six.  I stay at home with my children.  Heck, after getting William to school, I could just stay in PJ's and hang out with my daughter until it's time to get Bubba.  I'm SO lucky.  Mom, didn't have that opportunity and when the times DID come where we could relax a little bit... mom was ALL about having fun.  Schedules and bedtimes and clean-up could wait.  Fun was to be had when we could have it.  In fact now, when she visits, Mom and I stay up way too late.  Giggling.

So I don't go upstairs.  I grab my drink, turn up the monitor and enjoy my entertainment.  Elizabeth and William are the late night voices now and I want to enjoy the giggles while they still last...

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