Monday 1 November 2010

The tale of the sea anenome

It is about one o'clock in the morning, and all four of us are awake - and although all in bed, only my wife is where she should be. This is because Youngest is ill with a nasty chest infection and keeps coughing herself awake, which means that I have been turfed out of my bed to allow her to sleep in the same bed as her mother, because she somehow finds her presence soothing. I find this frankly unfathomable, because 'soothing' is about the last thing I would describe sharing a bed with my wife as, but there you go. This means that I have been banished to the spare bed, in the loft (which is not as Dickensian as it sounds: there are proper walls, windows and carpeting up there, even if you do have to climb a ladder to get into it). Fidgeting away beside me is Eldest, who started crying and had a major tantrum when her sister swapped beds because it left her all alone in their room, and so after much fuss it was decided she would share with me in the spare bed so she wouldn't be lonely. This may sound sweet, but is actually quite annoying, as I am exhausted, whereas she is feeling chatty and wants a story.
"I will tell you about the last time I had to share a bed with you, if you like?" I offer, sensing an opportunity to  impart a valuable life lesson about not making a needless fuss.
She nods without any enthusiasm, perhaps (rightly) realising that this is about the best she can expect, and that I'm really not going to climb back down the ladder and return with a selection of picture books for her to choose from, no matter how many time she says 'please' and makes puppy-dog eyes.
"It was about four years ago - you were still very little. Mummy was still pregnant with your sister..."
"What does pregnant mean?"
"That's definitely a story for another time. For this story it just means your sister wasn't born yet and Mummy needed to sleep in a proper bed, OK?"
"Well, we were staying at Nanny's house. Mummy and Daddy were sleeping in the spare room, and you had your little blow-up bed in the other room. But you were scared, and kept waking up, so wanted one of us to sleep in the same room as you..."
"So you did?"
"Yes. It was a long night."
"Well, first of all I had to make up the sofa bed up, then find a blanket. And then, once I'd done that, you decided you wanted to sleep on the bed next to me, but still stay in your blow-up bed. So I had to lift your whole bed up and lie it next to me on the sofa bed."
"That doesn't sound bad. That sounds funny..."
"Oh, you had only just got started with your demands. Then you decided you wanted to share my blanket, so I had to drape it over you which meant it wasn't quite wide enough to cover me, so I got a cold draught up my back. I had to go and find my sweatshirt to sleep in, but you didn't want to me leave you alone and so I had to carry around Nanny's house in the dark, bumping into things while I looked for my sweatshirt..."
"Nanny has a special cupboard where she hangs all the coats and jumpers up."
"Yes. I know that now. Anyway, when I found my sweatshirt, and put you back in your bed on my bed, you decided it was too dark..."
"So you put the light on?"
"So I put the light on. But then you said it was too bright..."
"Hmmm..." she says sagely, in sympathy with her younger self - as if unpleasant ambient light levels have been a lifelong burden that she has just somehow had to learn to deal with.
"So I turned the light back off. But then it was too dark again. So I had to pick you up, again, because you didn't want to be left on your own, and blunder into the front room, where Nanny had this battery operated table-light made of fibre optic threads..."
"I don't know what that is..."
"The sea anemone light. The one you use to play with all the time."
"Oh, that one. I liked that one."
"Yes. You used to pick it up all the time..."
"It used to change colour. It was pretty. But I don't think she has it any more."
"No. No, she doesn't."
"What happened to it?"
"I believe you broke it, shortly after this story takes place..."
She ponders this.
"She should definitely buy another one. What happened next?"
"Well, I went and got the sea anemone light, and put in our room, and put you in your bed, but on my bed, though under my blanket, with the main light off...and then you said the sea anemone light was too far away for you to see it properly. In the end I spent half the night lying on my back gazing at the ceiling with the sea anemone light held on my chest, just so you would go sleep..."
"Ha!" she says, amused.
"It is not funny," I say. "Now, think; why do you think I am telling you this? You were very little, but you are much bigger now. So what does that story tell you?" I ask.
She goes quiet while she thinks about it. I wonder how she must feel, hearing about the demands her younger self used to make. It is a silly sweet story, I think, but there is a point to it, and she is old enough to realise that sometimes you just need to get on with things for the sake of others...
"I think," she announces, brow furrowed in concentration, "it says that you used to be a much nicer Daddy than you are now?"
I am at a loss for words. I literally have no idea what to say.
She senses opportunity and presses on: "Can you buy us a new sea anemone light?"


MrWheeliebin said...

Wifey is laughing madly as I read you post out.

Lavarie - der Seifenblog said...

I honestly LOVE the way you tell stories about your family. It makes me laugh and feel family-affection at the same time.

Stephanie said...

Ha!!!! I remember playing "musical beds" when I used to have nightmares.

No one dared wake up my mom because she would literally scream with annoyance and fright at the small crying child tugging at the blankets.. so we only went to my dad's side of the bed and he would have to move over or come lie with us.

Max Halliwell said...

Once again all I can do is agree with her observations. You are indeed a much nastier person all round, indeed quite a 'bum clown'

beer friday?

Unknown said...

I'd laugh. Really I would. If only your story wasn't so close to my reality right now.