Yesterday I left work early with a skull-crushing headache. Tension and stress, plus the change in the weather, and I was down for the count. I came home, where Bill was with Julia. Julia, as I think I mentioned the other day, came home from daycare Tuesday with a 104 degree fever. She wasn’t allowed back until she had been fever-free for 24 hours, so Bill stayed home with her on Wednesday.
When I arrived, he was cleaning the music room and Julia was playing with legos. I pretended to be interested in what was going on until Bill told me to just go upstairs and go to bed. That seemed the sensible thing to do, so I said goodnight to Julia and headed to bed.
A few minutes later, as I lay there with my eyes closed, trying to release all the cast iron bars of tension that had formed across my shoulders and up the back of my head for days, my bedroom door opened and Julia came in and got up on the bed. She gave the cat a few energetic pats on the head and then a slightly more gentle hug, and then looked at me with great concern as she felt my forehead and my cheek, as I had done to her the day before. She comforted me a bit more, and then hopped off the bed and left the room, "bye bye mommy" as she closed the door. That was nice.
I could hear the vacuum cleaner going – Bill had cleared up all the sheet music and located the floor, apparently. That’s okay, it wouldn’t last long and it was just white noise anyway. So I concentrated some more on trying to release tension and loosen my jaw – I noticed recently that I’ve been clenching my teeth a lot – and then the door opened again and my perky little attention-craving daughter climbed back on the bed.
"Mommy? Can I draw?"
"Sure, Julia, go downstairs and ask Daddy for some crayons and paper."
"Noooooo, I want to draw with marrrrkerrrrrrrrs!"
Fine. Bill was still vacuuming and wouldn’t hear her anyway. I got her a sketch pad and the washable markers she is allowed to use on the bed, and she settled down at the far corner and chattered on as she scribbled. My participation wasn’t required – she was apparently talking to herself. So I closed my eyes and, again, tried to relax.
"Mommy, I’m done."
"Okay sweetie. Go ahead downstairs. And could you please close the door?"
"Okay Mommy!" And off she went. She’s so cute sometimes.
Next, Bill got out the FloorMate so he could clean the hardwoods. When he’s on a mission, he doesn’t stop. More noise. But whatever. It’s not a big room. I rolled onto my side and squished the pillow into a better position under my head.
"Mommy? What are you doing?" She came trotting around to my side of the bed and looked at me with a huge smile.
"Mommy’s head hurts. I’m trying to sleep. Could you go back downstairs and play with the legos some more?"
"Oh, sweetiepie, you don’t feel good?" All concern as she patted my brow.
"No, Julia, I don’t feel good. I really need to sleep." (hint hint. which is a complete waste of time with a three-year-old.) Could you please go back downstairs so I can take a nap? I’ll see you later."
"Are these your glasses?" She picks them up from the nightstand and gives them to me.
"Is this your clip?" She hands me a hair clip that is actually hers, but I was using it to keep bangs out of my eyes earlier.
"Is this yours?" She hands me a coaster from Red Hook Brewery in Seattle. Bill and I went there nearly 10 years ago. I thank her.
"Okay, sweetie, I REALLY need to take a nap, and you REALLY need to go downstairs. Okay?" I am pleading. I am desperate.
"Okay." She reluctantly leaves the room.
"Julia? Could you please close the door?"
I take deep, slow breaths and uncurl my fetal-positioned legs and arms…I uncurl my carpal-tunnel-clawed hands. RELAX.
"Hi Mommy!" The tornado spills back into the room. Her bare feet slap determinedly on the floor as she rounds the foot of the bed to look at me. She is smiling, and I hate to spoil her fun, but this is NOT helping and my HEAD HURTS and I REALLY need to take a nap and WHY can’t Bill notice that she KEEPS DOING THIS TO ME????
"Julia," I groan, "I really, really need a nap. You NEED to go DOWN STAIRS so I can sleep."
"I don’t want to!" She stares at the little ceramic duck and goose on my bureau. My mother made them when I was little. She took ceramics classes back then and glazed a lot of greenware for everyone over the years. The goose’s neck was broken once, but still it survives. Julia thinks if she ignores me, I will be quiet and let her stay. Not this time.
"Julia. You need to go DOWN stairs NOW. PLEASE. NOW." I feel mean, but my head hurts and I need sleep.
She still won’t look at me. "FINE!" she hollers, and I fast forward to her teen years and a cold chill runs down my spine. She stomps out of the room and closes the door behind her.
And then, less than a second later, she opens the door again – and SLAMS it shut.
I can’t help but laugh. And then, finally, I sleep.