Last night, Ruby started crying at about midnight. I leapt up from my desk and went zipping upstairs, because something certainly had to be wrong. We’ve been so lucky — for two years we have put her in bed between 7 and 8 and she has slept like a soft little log until 7 or 8. So, of course, when she cried, I went up there!
“I want some water,” she said, as I went into her room.
“That I can do,” I thought, and gave her a little Dixie cup of water.
“Wanna see Dennis,” was next. Dennis had visited us earlier in the evening and helped me pack some things up in the basement. He brought her a groovy jacket for her birthday (and an equally groovy hat), which she then wanted to find, try on, ask about and ask about and ask about.
Then, Popcorn! An entirely original thought at midnight — she wanted some popcorn. And…to know where Daddy was and Moose was and Nonnie was and Grandpops was and Grandpa Lynn was and Grandma was and Aunt Carrie was and Fred was and Aunt Jenny was and Andrew was and Uncle Roger was and Aunt Keren was and oh, she sure would like some more water too. And to watch some TV. And paint.
So last night I caved (because even if I could have handled The Screaming, I figured our neighbor Eddie could not) and brought her downstairs. Before I knew it we were eating popcorn and watching TV. Granted, we were watching “SuperNanny” and I was pointing out all the bad behaviors of the children and saying “See, they all have to go to bed now.” Finally, we both turned in again at about 2AM !! in the same bed. Every time I started to do the dip into the crib, The Screaming started again. So I just curled up with her in my bed and called it a night.
Tonight, I figured that had just been an isolated event. I ran out while Monica was here to treat myself to a mocha, and when I came back, there sat Ruby, next to Monica on the couch (she went down at 730 and it was now 10), watching TV and probably asking where I was, a lot. Monica sort of shrugged when I came in, then we said our goodbyes for the rest of the summer.
I didn’t do the popcorn and the water water water thing tonight. Instead, I thought I would do the rock rock rock thing and the sing sing sing thing. I whizzed through “Tell Me Why” and “The City and the Traveller.” Not asleep. “On Top of Old Smokey” came to mind, so I sang that. I was whisper-singing, too, the kind which is supposedly guaranteed to put all kinds of people to sleep. I wished, for a moment, that I could remember the words to “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” for no other reason than it is a damn long song.
Then, in a desperate attempt to sap her to sleep, I started to channel Judy Collins. When I was 12 or 13, I knew every Judy Collins song ever written, and I could hit the high notes too. I used to listen to them on my parents’ victrola for God’s sake, wearing grooves in every 33″.
I did “Send in the Clowns,” “Marie,” and “Dorothy.” My big finish (my arms were about to fall off at this point) was “Starmaker,” which I sang with great feeling. Rock, rock, rock, sing, sing, sing. I imagined being Ms. Collins at Wolf Trap (the place I first saw her), climbing higher and higher into the rafters with my voice, drawing people in, feeling every note. Crushing. My. Heart.
I realized in the background that instead of cheering, the sound I heard was actually Ruby wailing. In my Elvis-drop-to-one-knee swoop during verse three I had actually just thrown Ruby on the floor (the crowd went wild!) and completely lost track of what I was trying to accomplish. Not only was my performance ruined, but her Almost Asleep state had returned to The Screaming.
At this point, I gave up. I apologized for tossing her to the floor in a sappy-love-song-crescendo, and, defeated, placed her gingerly back in her crib. Still Screaming.
“At least,” I thought, as I crumbled down the stairs to put my headphones on in the basement, “I did what any self respecting child of a 70s-mother would do. I gave her something to cry about.”