"Am I keeping you awake with my breathing,” I ask, readjusting my pillow – better to feel his breath on my face.
"No, honey, your talking is", he answers, feigning a smile.
The house is still, but for the quiet, rhythmic thumping of a foot on the little girl's bedroom wall. "Wait for it", I sigh aloud, shifting my legs to breathe above the covers. "There is no such thing as, 'a last goodnight' in this house", I say too loudly.
Her younger, less tactful sibling answers the call with a resounding thud on the other side of the barrier between them. Indeed, he is still awake – unless mommy sticks her head in the door, then he is asleep, but breathing heavily under the covers.
"If this is allowed to continue,” I think aloud, "one of us is going to have to do something."
A choked snore escapes my exhausted husband, who when prodded insists that he is, "...not sleeping, only resting his eyeballs", and is ready to go back downstairs as soon as I am, so that we may at least pretend we have a life.
I touch his warm foot with my cold one. "Are you too tired for 'that'", I offer shamelessly.
One eyelid cracks open to determine the validity of that offer, then lazily shuts again. "I'm never too tired for that" he says, playing along with this ruse.
It's early on a week night and this is our life – stealing sleep whenever possible, making promises that tomorrow night, when the kids are in bed, we will do something, anything creative.
We will draw.
We will paint!
We will write!!
We will discuss sex, religion and politics in an opinionated, but friendly manner, say we're sorry for that last comment and then change the subject. I will finally match up that pile of socks, searching in vain for mates that vanished into thin air– or embroider them into sock puppets. We will sit down, he in his chair to sketch his next masterpiece of a family that is growing too fast, I with my book, my computer, my needle and thread.
"Are you still awake", I whisper.
"No", he answers.
When the lights are turned out for the last time, thick open-mouthed boys breathe soundly, having finally given in to their drooping eyelids. Their quiet rumblings are the only response to the persistent thumping still resonating against the little girl's bedroom wall. I pay no mind, minutes later, to the familiar creeping at the foot of our bed. She eases her head between my pillow and her daddy's with a stealth that would impress me, if I were more alert at this hour, and lies perfectly still, trying not to breathe, until I pat her on the cheek.
"Tonight", I whisper.
'Tomorrow is another day,' the child quietly, wisely ponders.
Furry members of the family yawn and stretch, as they begin their nightly routine of wrestling from room to room. On the hunt, they will miss the small mouse taking up residence in our kitchen, attacking the toilet paper instead, dragging it out through the hallway and down the stairs, stopping to cry outside of the closed shower doors for a drink – a personal favorite of my husband's.
This nightly ritual reminds the biggest critter with the smallest bladder in the house that she has to go outside – Right now! So begins an uncharacteristically early bedtime in our house.
Like I said, on any given night, in this house, uninterrupted sleep is something we only dream of – if we're lucky.
“Get to bed said Sleepyhead,
Wait awhile said Slow.
Put on the pot said Greedy Gut,
We'll eat before we go."