My sister and I live on a houseboat on the San Francisco Bay. It’s large, for a houseboat, but cozy, and its open format allows for gentle warm breezes all day long, as well as a spectacular view of the deep blue ocean as far as the eye can see. Our company on the slow days is just each other and our dog Murphy, a placid, tan colored mastiff. But on the nicest days our home fills with friends, and our dad will come by to make sure everything’s running well with the houseboat, tinkering about and fixing things up. I’m sitting and relaxing by myself one day when I hear a strange cry. Suddenly, the bright sun and gorgeous blue water swirls and turns dark, and blinking I open my eyes to find that everything is dark and different. I’m in my bed, and my husband is saying to me, “Carly, come help me please, I think her diaper’s leaked.”
Ah. Here it is, my real life. I hear her cry again, and then she says my name. My new name. Mommy. I get up. She’s half asleep but upset. She’s been teething this week, and so moody. Her pants and blanket are wet. She doesn’t want us to change her. She struggles when we try. It takes us twenty minutes to finally get her out of her wet clothes, and another 20 before she calms down enough that we can try to put a new diaper on. We finally have to force the diaper and pants on her, and since we three are already exhausted, this effort comes from fumes. It’s already an hour since I woke up.
I give her a sippy cup of watered-down apple juice. She takes a small sip, looks at me, and laughs. Her eyes are finally bright again, though her hair is mashed to her head in a mix of sweat and tears. She lays down in my arms like she did as a newborn, and her chubby little body relaxes. “Do you want to go back to bed?” She shakes her head no. “Do you want mommy to hold you?” She nods. So I sing to her.
The first is a song I sang to her all the time in her first year, because it was the only thing that would stop her from crying when I’d tried all else. It’s the theme song from a TV show from the 80’s that I watched as a kid. Skidda marink idink idink, skidda marink idoo, I love you. The second is a song my dad sang to me when I was a child. My little girl, I’m dreaming of you, and I think of you each day. Her eyes start to droop. She’s so beautiful that I want to hold her forever. I rock her for a while. Her hands are so tiny.
I place her back in her crib and go back to bed. I can’t sleep. I can tell my husband is awake. We can hear her chewing on her pacifier, awake also. For the next 30 minutes none of us can sleep. And then, finally, blessedly, we do.