Good Night, Sleep Tight, and Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite
My father has been a great many things during the course of my life.
He was once a pirate, sailing the high seas, sporting an eye patch, and a parrot of tropical colors was always perched upon his shoulder. He walked the plank, swam with the fish, and shot the canon.
When he retired as a pirate, he became an astronaut. But not just any astronaut. Sure, he wore the puffy white suit and defied gravity while in space, but the rocket ship always landed in time to help coach my brother’s tee ball team. There is always a story to tell. He would remind me of this every time my brother and I would curl up on the couch during a power outage, clutching our flashlights, waiting for the storm to subside. It was there, amidst the shadows of the unknown, that we heard tales of adventure sprinkled with a little bit of truth.
I am not quite as adventurous as my father.
I’ve never been a race car driver, a fighter pilot, or a lion tamer. So, when the kids put the books away and beg for a “story from when Mommy was little,” most commonly known as a bedtime story, I have to opt for the few tales I can remember from my rather predictable and safe childhood. I close my eyes and words fill the room of the thrill and excitement of finding a new “hideout” in the woods in front of my childhood home. The tree with branches just low enough to cradle my skinned knees as I held my breath and braved the climb to the top. The stream with the ice cold water that begged for bare feet. The neighbors who would invite me and my brother over for a delicious bowl of homemade ice cream after a long day of riding bikes without training wheels and seeing who could eat the most rock salt (kids, this is a bad idea. No one comes in first place, and everyone ends up with a stomach ache).
Tales of birthdays past entertain them as their eyelids fight sleep. Every party was an event, a treasure to behold. Towers of neatly wrapped presents seemingly scraped the sky, placed delicately around a Rainbow Brite sheet cake proudly displaying the birthday girl’s name. Party guests are a blur, for excitement and sugary beverages fueled every second of merriment that Showbiz Pizza could offer by playing skee ball, counting tokens, or, as my younger brother prefers to forget, getting stuck on the rope ladder of a small play area and crying for assistance (Kids, this is also a bad idea. When this happens, someone will be filming, your sibling will conveniently remember, and you will have to own the crying and the hideous wind suit and side part hairstyle years later).
There are stories that plead a retelling to even the sleepiest of little ones. Any tale involving animals is sure to grant you one extra kiss goodnight guaranteed. Like when my Uncle Dennis so graciously presented me and my brother with not one, but two ducks to live in our brick rancher and quack at all hours of the night. (Not sure what happened to ‘ol Ducky and Webby, but last I heard they were living on a big farm with lots of space to run and play…). Just in case our parents did not know that our lives were void without a family pet, we cut and pasted pictures of dogs and placed them strategically around the house like love letters. These suggestions from the heart could be found in the microwave, in the fridge, under our parents’ pillows. The end result of our prayers for a canine was a lot of fish, one of which was maliciously overfed by a little boy who cried on a rope ladder at a birthday party once.
They smile, rest their heads on their pillows, as I reassure them that tomorrow holds many more tales of purple popscicles, roller skating rinks, and a firm explanation of what VHS tapes are and proof of a giant machine that somehow “rewinds” them. For it matters not how ordinary you believe your life to be. Everyday living is both a blessing and an adventure in itself.
My superhero father was right. There is always a story to tell. Especially at bedtime.