The house seems different at 4:30 a.m.
First, there’s the darkness. It’s amazing how lack of natural light (or the artificial variety, for that matter) will change a place. The good news is: I can’t see the dust, the coffee table clutter or the shoes on the floor. The bad news is, I trip over said shoes as I feel my way to the sofa, almost breaking my neck.
Then, there’s the quiet. No TV, no stereo, no traffic noise from the street outside — only the moans and creaks of this old house and a cacophony of wind chimes from the front porch.
This kind of stillness — this void of stimuli — usually unsettles me. Not at 4:30 a.m. At 4:30 a.m., silence is golden. That is, for about 10 minutes. After that, I’m as nervous as a tiny nun at a penguin shoot! (Found that one the Internet; couldn’t resist.)
Insomnia was a whole different ball game before the dog came.
Pre-dog, I would wake up, check the alarm clock and, after the requisite silent cursing (“$%*&! Not again! Why can’t I sleep through the %#^@$ night like I used to?”), slip out of bed, pop on the TV and hunker down for an hour or two of QVC.
Sometimes, I’d be more productive — busying myself around the house, straightening up, dusting, folding laundry, preparing that nights’ dinner 14 hours ahead.
Once, I awoke at the crack of four, overwhelmed with an urge to organize my cookbooks … all 117 of them! I arranged and rearranged them by height, width, food group, geographical region and type of binding. I was a woman possessed until I heard my husband’s alarm sound and realized I’d spent the past two hours alphabetizing freaking cookbooks!
Tonight, there’s nothing to do but stare at the walls ‘lest, God forbid, I disturb the puppy snoozing peacefully in her crate in the kitchen.
“I can’t wake her up at this ungodly hour” I tell myself. “She’s been so good about sleeping through the night. Must be that cozy little kennel of hers …”
But I’m hungry! I could really use some leftover tuna salad. Alas, the fridge is only a few feet from the crate. No matter how lightly I tippy-toe, I’ll surely wake her.
Sleepless, starving and distressed, I turn on QVC with the sound muted. At first, it’s nice not to have to listen to all that chirpy hard selling. After a few minutes, though, it’s like watching a bunch of mimes in Quacker Factory sweaters.
The wind picks up outside. Chimes clang noisily together.
“Sssssh!” I say. “Don’t wake her. I’m in no mood to play ‘fetch the toy under the couch’ (since I’m the one who always does the fetching.)”
Curse this insomnia AND the dog. She’s got it made, snug as a bug in her box like that.
QVC presenters mouth their enthusiasm over the Slanket deluxe super-soft wearable blanket. (Anyone? Anyone? It’s only $29.92 on Easy Pay!) I find myself giving the one-size-fits-all Snuggie knock-off serious consideration. After all, I could wear it every night at 4 a.m. This living room is chilly!
Ah! But the phone is in its cradle… right next to the dog in a box in the kitchen. No sale on the Slanket tonight.
Suddenly, I’m extremely thirsty and decide to chance it and head to the kitchen for a drink.
Slowly I turn, step by step, inch by inch — all the while in the dark — until I reach the cabinet where we keep the glasses. Gently, I open the door to reach for a tumbler. Creeeeak! That blasted hinge! I freeze and wait for the barking to begin.
Nothing. Not a stir. Whew, that was close.
Next, I turn on the faucet just a smidge and start to fill my glass. The pipes squeal at high C. Oh, God. She’s up! I’ve done it now!
But the dog doesn’t even flinch.
Hmm, guess Lucy won’t be getting the Watchdog of the Year award. Nothing seems to wake that mutt up. Not when she’s in that crate, anyway.
I sneak back to the living room, water glass in hand, sit down and wait for dawn. Next up on QVC: Northern Lights Limited Edition Animal Print Flannel Pajamas and Lucky Muck mid-calf slipper boots.
“They’re cute enough,” I say to myself. “But I’m not buying anything until they roll out an extra-plush self-cooling sleeping crate for post-menopausal women.”
Are you listening, QVC?
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at can be reached at 832-6319.