A door slammed, jolting me into consciousness. Blinking, I saw nothing. It was a moonless night—no silvery leaves glinted outside my windows as I pushed the blanket away from my ear to listen more intently for footsteps. I reluctantly got up to investigate. No children were about, no lights were on. If there had been an intruder, surely the dog would have barked. It probably came from the neighbor’s house, I told myself as I eased back into warm blankets.
As I drifted back into slumber, I heard the fence gate creak and expected to see the glow of a flashlight as a child approached the house from their sleeping spot in the tree. They probably needed the bathroom or maybe there were too many mosquitoes. I lumbered toward the door. There was no glow, no child. I flicked the light switch and saw tanbark, a closed gate. I’m hearing things, I told myself, and fell back into bed.
For years I lived alone and managed the eeriness of night, the creaking of houses, the slamming of car doors, the voices of neighbors, the scurrying of raccoons and other creatures across the rooftop. But now, used to my husband by my side, things are different when he’s out of town. My subconscious hears regular suburban nighttime sounds and magnifies them into monsters lurking, strangers sneaking, invisible dangers.
In that moment, even as I was still on high alert, I felt very silly. How can I be the competent adult in charge of keeping children and pets fed and safe? I read something recently about how there are no adults, only super-sized kids. And that’s how I felt last night. A big kid afraid of being alone in the dark.
Then a child walked into my room—a nightmare woke him. With my most convincing voice, I told him to think of things he loves to drown out the other stuff—Minecraft, our dog Pepper, his sleeping companion Foofy—and sent him on his way. He came back two other times before I convinced him to take his sleeping bag into his brother’s room. At that point, I couldn’t fall asleep. So I tried to think of the things that I love—my husband and children, my friends, our dog and the chickens, the tempeh Ruben at Dharma’s. I didn’t feel less scared, but I did feel hungry, so I hatched a plan to take the kids to Capitola later this week so that I can munch that sandwich.
At that point, the night sky was easing into dawn. Nighttime sounds were overruled as chickens began to cluck, birds began to chirp, and the fountain began to dribble. Hours later, I am so tired. If I have another restless night, perhaps I will take my blanket and pillow into the kids’ room.