It’s dark out now, and with a crunch my rubber boots touch down into the skiff of snow on the deck. With our wood bag in hand, the moonlight guides me out the door and down the stairs, toward the barn and the cat chorale.
As I fill my bag with wood from the pile, making sure to load up with two sticks more than I can really manage, I can hear Wren in the house yelling and jumping on the couch, and a rattle of dishes in the sink. Millie, heard clearest of all through the still thin air, is singing her bedtime scream story, as Justin jiggles her with dedicated conviction in his arms, and James Taylor plays in the background.
It seems to always happen this way, that the wood supply runs out just as the bedtime chaos is erupting.
I hurry towards the noise, laden down on one side with a shin-whacking load, and try my best not to crush our white cat that insists on darting between my feet all the way up to the steps of the door.
Here I enter into ‘Sweet Baby James,’ that is anything but sweet with its array of splattered markers, paper, upturned glue, fake feathers and three dirty diapers. The wood gets dropped beside those, and I remember to turn off the oven.
As I chuck my jacket onto the chair, I can see the sink is overflowing with dishes. The fridge is slightly ajar after Wren’s latest “chunk of cheese” attempt, and I haven’t really finished my supper. Wren is begging for one more show and isn’t wearing anything from the waist down.
Sometimes I like to put a semblance of a school lunch together for the next day at this point, but by the look of Justin’s wide eyes and raised eyebrows, and the impossibility of negotiating such a feat over the shrill of Millie’s cry, it seems the decision has been made for me that the day is done. School lunch prep, among many other things, will have to wait until morning.
When Wren was a baby, I had this superstitious bedtime routine that involved a myriad of trending baby books.
Scratch that shit- tonight we won’t bathe, either. Doing that is a suicide mission these days considering you can see your breath in the bathroom. Convincing her to pee, let alone to uphold any standard of personal hygiene, is nearly impossible.
And I can’t blame her. I’m conveniently still wearing my pajamas from the night before that I wore all day, too.
So I simply yell for Wren to give her sister a kiss, give Justin a sympathetic look and haul our asses down the hall, past my lonely toothbrush and the washer full of musty clothes that never got put out to dry today. Again.
In our room I turn on the salt lamp on the dresser, and scoot aside the two-foot high pile of laundry that is obstructing its light. I turn on my vice, the fan, and point it away from Justin’s hanging dirty workclothes, so as not to smell the stench of must and mud all night. And I wrangle my baby into her clean diaper and fleece pyjamas while making pointless attempts at googly eyes and tickles to distract her from the fact that she feels like if she doesn’t get a drink RIGHT.THAT.SECOND she may perish.
While propping up the three pillows on the bed to nurse her to sleep, I frantically feel each of my boobs to try to figure out which one feels more full. And with that, I bunker down, latch her on, and my world goes silent.
Suck, suck, her wide eyes peer up at mine between hurried breath. Suck, suck, she reaches for my mouth, and then my neck.
Then slowly but surely, her little hands, once outstretched, go limp against my chest. Her feet, once kicking, begin to settle at my waist. Her eyebrows, once furrowed, start to relax. Her little breaths, warm and moist against me, begin to follow a rhythym, and I pat her perfect little head and wonder how she got to be so sweet, as I lay her body beside me.
Her little tears have crusted to the side of her face and spit stretches from one agape lip to the next. Her nose has crusty boogers and her pyjamas are a size too small. Her eyelashes, long and curled, flutter. Her lips suckle the air, and her twitching hand I place in mine as she dozes off. Her milky breath is a familiar perfection.
This is my very favourite part of the day. I got fuck-all accomplished all day, it often feels, but nonetheless, I get this every night.
Unlike the slow moving minutes that pass at night, days tend to carry with them a sense of urgency: to get here and get this done, to clean this part of the house and then to tackle the next. To pick up the big kid and to encourage her to be a decent human being. But every night around this time, we surrender and we get our peace.
And every night I let my heart win instead of my head. My heart forces my eyes to stay awake and to watch my baby drift off to sleep, though my body is exhausted and drained. My heart decides to place her in bed with me, instead of in her onlooking bed just steps away.
And in just afew hours, Wren, like Justin, will make her way into the bed, too. Her world is an insane level of weird right now, and so we welcome the sardined situation that is our sleeping arrangement as of late.
Today might have sucked. But I love my children intensely when they sleep, and the sleeping innocence is what makes the waking insanities worthwhile.
For today there are four in a queen size bed. The girls sleep six and sixteen inches from my face, respectively, and all night I feel their warm breath on my forehead, which might drive me mad if it were any other time of the day.
I sleep with Millie’s squirmy body against mine, where she lived a short six months ago, with the reminder that is the speed of time resting next to her in my older child. And I sleep on my side facing the two of them so I can take in every moment of it- partially due to the fact that I have no other option.
It’s what works for us. My hip is sore but my heart is full.