This week's memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club was: Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about yourself. Instead of reciting a laundry list of what you do or where you're from, please give us a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self. Word limit is 600. Constructive criticism is most welcome. I must admit I had a hard time choosing one scene from my life for this assignment.
Sleepy TimeAccording to the unkind digital face on my bedside table, it’s almost 3am. When I first started working a nightshift it wasn’t unusual for me to have trouble falling asleep when I got home. Now two years have gone by and I can usually get to sleep within an hour or so. But tonight I had a difficult and angry customer. I replay the scene over and over again in my head—things he said, things I said, things I wish I had been clever enough to say. As I lay in bed the need for sleep becomes urgent. A mother can function on very little sleep but she can’t do without it altogether. I try to push the confrontation out of my mind. My skin should be thicker after all these years in customer service, but it isn’t. I’m angry at the customer and frustrated with myself. I take way too much to heart. So I’m still awake when James comes in the room.
“Mommy?” he says, unable to see me in the dark room.
“Are you okay Sweetie?” I ask.
“I had a bad dream.”
I pick him up. He clings to me. His skinny legs wrap around my waist and hold on tightly. He’s shaking a little. “Let’s get into your bed,” I tell him. “We’ll cuddle up and you can tell me about your dream.” He rests his head in the curve between my shoulder and neck and I feel him begin to relax as we walk down the hall. He is four years old, but in these hours between night and day he is still my baby.
The boys’ night-lights make the apple green walls glow softly. I put James into the lower bunk and climb in after him. There is plenty of room for both of us—neither one of us is very big. I pull the Lightning McQueen blanket over us. He still clings to me while as he tells me his dream.
“There were monsters,” he whispers.
“What were they doing?” I asked him.
“They were chasing me.”
“Maybe they just wanted to play tag with you,” I said.
I feel James shaking again, but this time he is giggling softly, “Mommy! Monsters don’t play tag.”
“Are you sure? Did you ask them? Maybe they were bored.”
“I’ll ask them next time,” he says. “Mommy? Will you stay with me?”
“Of course Honey,” I tell him. I plan to go back to my own bed after he drifts off to sleep.
He cuddles closer and plays with my hair as he falls asleep. It is something he used to do when he was nursing. I think about our late nights together. My elderly pediatrician told me I’d miss those moments. As a sleep-deprived new mother, I didn’t believe him. I was wrong.
Sleep finally finds me in that darkened room with my baby in my arms. I comfort him. He comforts me. My frightened child has exorcised the angry customers from my mind.