A mother gives thanks to her prison guard
Tomorrow it is American Thanksgiving, which means that it’s customary to say what you’re grateful for. Mainly I’m thankful that I’m not a turkey. However, my brain’s chemicals dictate that there’s something else I’m glad of too.
You see, being two and a half now, my daughter thinks she’s too mature for an afternoon nap. After all, there are songs to be sung and toys to be strewn about the house. But I’m not ready for her to be awake all day. After all, when else am I supposed to blog about her not taking a nap?
This Sunday I had an inspired idea.
Perhaps if I lie with her in my bed, I told myself eagerly, I would model the sleeping behavior I’d like to see in her. Of course I won’t fall asleep — after all, I’m very busy. Yet though my mind will race with clever, productive thoughts, my body will be still and Poppy will be tricked into falling asleep.
It was foolproof.
So my toddler and I slipped into the crisp cool sheets of my and Walter’s bed. Poppy was luminous with excitement. She’d never slept in our bed before. A mellow autumnal sun cast a cozy light upon mother and child as they lay next to each other on their matching pillows.
Poppy turned her little face to mine. It radiated delight.
“Shhhh,” I said gently.
“Shhhh,” she replied gently. We closed our eyes.
Two seconds passed.
“You’re my friend,” Poppy whispered, her eyes open again and her smile in full-beam. I beamed back, and then modeled the slack-jawed face of someone falling asleep.
“I’ll look after you,” murmured my child, resting a chubby hand on my shoulder.
Three seconds passed. I began to feel my body tumbling into that delicious precursor to sleep.
A fishhook halted my descent. “Mummy, are these cherries?” a little voice whispered into my ear. I flicked my eyes open to see her finger pointing at the floral pattern of her pillow.
The voice insisted, louder: “Are these cherries?”
“No, those are flowers,” I whispered, “shhh, sleepy time.”
I could feel a querying fingernail move now onto my pillow.
“Is this you, Mummy?” she whispered. I opened a groggy eye to see her pointing at another flower on the pillow. “Is this me?” she asked, stabbing a smaller flower next to it. “Is it Mummy and Poppy?”
Poppy was using her outside voice.
I ignored her. She closed her eyes. So did I.
Four seconds passed.
Then Poppy tossed her body violently onto my pillow. Two fingers began to creep ever so carefully across my face.
“One nose,” chanted the fingers’ owner, “Two ears, one mouth, a chin, two eyes.”
Suddenly, a small scientific finger stabbed me in the eye socket. “Ouch!” I shouted.
I stared in outrage.
“Your eyes are the color of blueberries,” cried Poppy with delight.
“Go to sleep!” I begged, desperate, my body still tingling from having been in the hinterlands of sleep.
Poppy sighed, rolled off my pillow and plopped solidly back onto hers. She began to tug the blankets carefully but noisily: the bed-sheets rustled aggressively. A few seconds later I felt depressions in the mattress further down the bed and opened an eye to find Poppy doing the downward facing dog. She performed her yogic poses with such Zen calm that I allowed myself to start sinking again into that delicious….
THUMP! A 35-pound weight landed heavily on my back.
“Go to sleep!!” the weight yelled at my shocked body.
Poppy bounced onto my pillow and pressed her face into mine. “Go to sleep, Mummy,” she said in her bossiest toddler voice.
I noticed that beneath her pile of flaxen curls, my tormenter’s eyes were the color of blueberries.
Neurochemicals fizzed in my doting brain and in an instant, my prison guard’s sins were forgiven.
Happy Thanksgiving all y’all.