In the Space after Midnight

My eyes were open, measuring the various darknesses of the room. When last I’d looked at the clock it had told me 12:45. Moments had ticked past since then, enough that I suspected the clock of reading 1 am. Howard shifted next to me. Gleek sniffled from the small kid bed on the floor. Her hand pulled my arm fractionally further over the edge of the bed. I was not the only one who’d had trouble with sleep. A transfer to my room and my hand to hold were enough to secure a ten year old into sleep. Unconsciousness was more elusive for me.

Gleek’s hand was rough against my palm. Hers was a hand much used for monkey bars and tree climbing. I’d felt the strength of her fingers when she first gripped my hand in the darkness. The grip became loose as drowsiness claimed her. In a moment I could let go, my final parental duty of the night complete. I held on for just a minute longer. Her hand was almost the size of my own. Some wisp of memory reminded me of the time when her hands were small and soft. It was long ago and while the memory of that little hand carried tenderness, I had no desire to re-traverse all the years and challenges which had led to her hand being strong. I let her hand slide softly through my fingers and rolled over to contemplate my ceiling. The lights had been out long enough that the glow in the dark stars had faded. All our bedrooms have stars on them, now aged to the point that many of them fly free of their own accord. It is not unusual for me to step through a darkened bedroom and spot fallen stars on the carpet. A stubborn few still stick to the ceiling, or so I assumed. I squinted my eyes, imagining that a few spots still held a faint glow.

Mostly I lay with my eyes closed and follow the tracks of the thoughts in my brain. They ran over the pre-order of calendars and financial calculations based upon quantities ordered. There were side tracks into Patch’s multiplication memorization, Kiki’s art project, and Gleek’s colony report. Their homework was not mine to do or to track. Yet I did. I was not sure how to stop myself from mentally marking when these things should be done and nudging my children if I thought the work should be progressing. Then, of course, I worried that my habit of unconsciously organizing would mean that they never learned to organize for themselves. I could spend days spinning myself in circles of parental failure. I was supposed to be sleeping. Drifting to sleep would land me on the shores of morning with more energy and a mind ready to tackle the challenges of the day. Sleep did not come.

I swung my feet softly over the edge of the bed and placed them carefully on the floor, off to one side of Gleek. I wrapped my robe around my shoulders and padded my way through the house. Our cat had indicated a desire to go outdoors just as everyone went to bed. Perhaps she was ready to come back in. I opened the front door quietly. The bolt clacked loudly in the quiet and then the hinges creaked.
“Kitty?” I called, my breath misting in the nigh frozen air. I pitched my voice low, wanting the cat to hear me, not wanting to disturb any human inhabitants of my house and cul de sac. All was still in the light of the street lamp. Only the glitter of frost on the fallen leaves seemed to lend motion to the tableau. I clacked the door closed and returned to my kitchen.

If not for knowing I was needed in the morning, I would have relished the silence of post-midnight. My people were present, nearby and safe, but they didn’t need anything from me. I’d assigned nothing to myself for that hour. Assignments wouldn’t return until 6:45 am. Part of me longed to just stay awake, to expand into the quiet, read a book, watch a movie. Instead I stretched my limbs, grabbed a snack, and returned to the warmth of bed. Sleep waited for me there.