Archive for April, 2012

Thinking of sleep

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I’m home sick today, some stomach bug that has me just uncomfortable enough that i cant sleep, so im writing. I’ve noticed some things that keep popping into my mind lately. I’m remembering sleeping. Not dreams so much, mostly places, the quality of sun, or dark, or the smell of the air.

The first one was back in our old Morton Grove house. It wasn’t air conditioned, and I remember how hot it would get upstairs. There was a large exhaust fan in the ceiling, I guess you’d call it an attic fan, and Dad would turn it on when the six of us would go to bed. We’d open the windows a tiny bit and the fan would pull outside air (sometimes cooler, sometimes not) through the bedrooms, making them (sometimes) cooler for sleeping. 

On those hot nights in July, all six of us would pull blankets and pillows out into the hallway and sleep on the cool hardwood floor, cool air pulling over us, and the steady drone of the fan helping us sleep.

I remember sometime later, we had gotten a dog, and I have memories of a Saturday morning, early, after dad had gone to work, and before starting chores, our dog would flatten out the tall grass and sleep, I’d lay down with my head on his back, I remember the deep blue sky, the whiteness of the clouds, and how warm his black coat felt. That early on a Saturday used to be very quiet, I remember birds, the smell of the grass, and that warm tingly feeling of sun on my face.

I think it was in high school, the cubs were making a pennant run, I remember come home from work, maybe in late August and pulling the bed over to the windows, the sill and mattress were exactly on the same level, I’d put the pillow in the open window, turn Jack Brickhouse and Lou Boudreau on WGN and fall asleep to the play by play, waking when they would turn a double play “Santo to Beckert to Banks” or when shortstop Don Kessinger would backhand a grounder and execute a turning, leaping throw across his body that Ernie would scoop out of the dirt to rob Lou Brock and the Cardinals of a base runner. I remember hearing the train at Dempster and Lehigh as I drifted to sleep.

I remember one of the only times I was up at the lake by myself, in the addition Dad and I had built. I remember it was cold, grey, drizzly, and the house didn’t have heat yet. I had driven most of the day and after unloading, put on the hooded sweatshirt my daughters gave me, pulled up the hood, and laid face down, the warmth of my breath making a little bubble of heat, all I needed to fall into a deep sleep.

I remember too, the house in Blacksburg, on a Saturday afternoon, turning on the NASCAR race on the xm radio the girls gave me and feeling the sun on my back as i fell into a solid nap after mowing.

It’s hard to know why these memories popped up just now. It could be that good sleep is hard to come by these days. Mostly it’s just the season, springtimes are filled with difficult memories, mostly of losses, and it’s the busy season, classes wrapping up, taxes being organized, summer plans coming into view, but the memory of sleep is almost as restful as the real thing. I think it’s a memory of slowing down, feeling relaxed enough to let down and to take it all in, the sounds, the smells, the warmth, the coolness, all of it.

These days when we’re all so distracted by the devices around us, it’s a real treat to unplug briefly, and just be…right there, right then. Not thinking of the past or future, just the immediate present.

There’s any old saying, “let sleeping dogs lie”. So if you ever come across someone sleeping a peaceful sleep, let them be for just a while, someone will return that favor to you one day, and you’ll appreciate it.