October 28, 2009
It wasn’t something I ever gave a second thought. I took it for granted, like electricity or a roof over my head.
Thats the thing with becoming a grown-up. The mystery is peeled away. Electricity is not a given, it is linked to a small brown envelope or a direct assault on your bank account. It sometimes fails and involves tedious calls to a man who usually will not turn up when he says he will and then turns you into a fawning pathetically grateful creature when he does.
Sleep. Blessed sinking into crisp sheets and lavender-scented pillows. A small lamp casts a warm glow, light enough to read by but discreet enough not to be invasive. I know that such a place of repose exists because I have seen it in magazines or on the Martha Stewart website. There is sometimes an artfully placed wooden train (with all the pieces present) unobtrusively peeking out from under a healthy houseplant. This signifies that the inhabitants of this room have children.
Anyone who comes to our house knows that. And my bed does not look like that. It starts off ok after it has been hastily made and I do have a policy of basic hygiene such a requirement to change the sheets if a child has thrown up on them or generally leaked in any way. By the time I fall into bed, however, it has usually become a refuge for plastic farm animals or unidentified (and banned) foodstuffs. The pillows migrate into “houses” in other rooms and more than once I have been spooked when I have opened my eyes and met the glassy gaze of a doll.
As a student, lack of sleep was spoken about with a wry smile. It implied debauchery, a devil-may-care insouciance, 24 hour sprints of lessons, assignments, loud music and general cavorting. It involved tiptoeing over the messy business of catering, laundry and partially-read newspapers and incomplete assignments.
Here’s the thing: I may stretch to a glass of wine in the evening but usually don’t get to finish it before I fall asleep on the sofa.
I dream of sleep. That is the wrong way round I know but needs must. A friend of mine is about to give birth to her fourth child in six years. It makes me want to weep to think of it, this dear friend about to voluntarily expose herself to a recognized form of torture.
I have three teenagers who have no trouble with sleeping. They are champion sleepers, the only trouble is that their waking hours are filled with noise and electronic interaction that interrupts my sleep.
My two young daughters are 4 and 2. You would think that now I have limped through the baby phase, the night feeds, the teething, that things would be looking up on the slumber front. They are not. Apparently we have a wolf outside and monsters under the bed. We have a family of squirrely things called loires that have taken up residence in our roof and a neurotic cat. Hunting season has started and trigger-happy men in brand new camouflage fatigues call out to each other and swear at their dogs on their pre-dawn excursions behind our house.
It is not true to say that I never get a good nights sleep anymore. I recently had to go up to Paris for a meeting. Of course this was a wonderful opportunity to take in the sites, admire Hausmann’s architecture and reaquaint myself with the wondrous works of art at the Louvres and Musee D’Orsay or to sit and gaze at Rodin’s thinker. It could all be rounded off with a stroll alongside the Seine and a Kir Royale with the tinkling background laughter of sophisticated diners talking of politics and philosophy. I took the alternative and slept for 14 hours.