I DON’T KNOW YET. YOU START FIRST.
Evening settling-in melancholy. Something must be done about this.
Once, for a short ten years, I approached 8 p.m. as a beginning of a new phase of the day. Kids to bed, never by me. I finished supper dishes and listened to the stories being read upstairs, and the rumble of unsleepy siblings. Later in that decade, Babycake to bed, by me, while rumbling went on upstairs like always. She never minded the elephants; I marveled at how two small people could make a house thunder, and just smiled at that baby and rocked and sang.
My baby learned to make her own kind of thunder, quietly, teaching me the value of ritual as comfort. Any change in the bedtime rites was met with, “Why can’t things just be right?”
Why can’t things just be right?
I wonder at my own lack of comforting rituals. This would be a good time to make some up. There’s the not-to-be-forgotten bedtime text, and when my then-Babycake now-Thundergirl crawls into bed and arranges things just so, she applies her rituals to me.
“Mommy, can we talk for a little while?”
“Sure, baby. What do you want to talk about?”
And always the response, “I don’t know yet. You start first.”
When she is gone, I miss the prompt to replay something interesting about my day. Sometimes I call my mother, sometimes I watch a documentary impossible to watch with a house full of Thunder. She doesn’t interrupt, but I like her company better than anything narrated by George Plimpton. Her respectfulness of my dry taste in TV makes me love her even more. She gets it.
When the rare beautiful boy is near me at bedtime, we talk until we agree that lateness has befallen us, and he sets or turns off an alarm, and I tuck myself into Girlfriend Position until I feel him drop off like a rock down a well. Then I wait, and when his breathing is absolutely steady, I arrange things just so in his bed, my back to his, and ease into the sweet kind of sleep that only happens there, in that familiar old house full of unfamiliar objects. Sometimes he tells me his breakfast plan in his half-sleep; he apologizes every time there’s no butcher-shop bacon in the house. There is always coffee in the morning, and quiet steps that let me go back to sleep after he is woken by some pet or another.
Tonight, a just-me ritual must bubble to the front of my falling-asleep brain. It’s time. The evenings are so short now, a warm wonderful thing, but bedtime surprises me when I am alone. I wander, and stall, and wonder at the strange changes of the last year of my life. I think too much. I read until the words don’t make sense. I make lists on Facebook of the things for which I am grateful. This new ritual almost wards off a predictable little bedtime melancholy that has become the only reliable thing about resigning myself to bed.
Last night, I wrote. Tonight, I write. Tomorrow, I won’t.
Is a ritual really a ritual if it’s not past, present, and future tenses in its practice? My child would say no, but her own bedtimes change from house to house. Who talks with her about her day when she is away? I can’t think of that, ever. My heart breaks.
Still in this filtering stage, I’ll think about comfort and rituals not too hard as I tuck myself into this strange bed, at this strange interval of my life.
I am tired and I have a teddy bear and proper pillows from home. That’s a good start, don’t you think?