Once in a while, I find myself comparing M’s childhood to my own. Do you do this too? For example, the place where I grew up—a bona fide hamlet of a couple thousand fine folks in the mountains—is so much different than where she’s growing up—a culturally diverse city of 90,000+ less than 2 miles from the ocean. She has the world of technology at her fingertips and can roam the house while on the cordless phone with her Gramma, yet I was tethered by about ten feet of curly cord when I talked to my Grandma. Things like that. Not necessarily weighing the differences, just noting them.
Anyway, one night when I was laying next to M in her bed in the middle of the night,* I was strangely and acutely aware of the difference in the kind of nighttime sound I had during childhood sleep, compared with what she has had, especially during the summer. I had katydids as my slumber soundtrack. Lots and lots of katydids.
Have you heard them before? Katydid, katy-didn’t. Katydid, katy-didn’t. Katydid, katy-didn’t. To this day, if I happen hear one of those green guys—which isn’t often at our house—I am immediately transported to my upstairs bedroom on Holland Drive.
But M’s ambient lullaby? There are a few. Though I am not really happy about most of them.
A noise machine playing artificial ocean sounds. It used to be set to “rainstorm” but we switched it because we thought that was what was making her wake up to pee 2x a night…but no dice. Of course as I type this I realize we’ve not made it much better with the sounds of an ocean! I guess it bugs me on some level that we are using that machine, something else to plug in, to block out other sounds from outside and the clatter that comes with living in a small house.
The booming bass of a car that drives to and from the apartment around the corner, every night. It’s not just loud, it’s sonic boom loud. This guy has been living around the corner for a few months now and the only time he seems to drive by is very late at night, which means I can’t shake my cranky old lady fist at him to ask him to stop. And it’s not like we only hear it for a second or two. We live on the corner and so we get to hear him roll the entire way home and sit in his car for a bit to finish up the song. Yo dude, I don’t care if you want to blast that mofo during the day, and I’m not even complaining about the kind of music you’re playing because I own some of it myself, but really…do you need to have it cranked up so loud as you cruise into the neighborhood where you live, surrounded by people who you should be “neighborly” to? It kills me that people like him just cannot extend a courtesy like that. I know it’s a free country and all, but really how free are we without some semblance of quality of life at 2 fucking AM!
Background noise from the airport (which, thankfully, ends at midnight) and the highway. Because of where we live, and the topography that comes with living in an old granite quarry, sound is amplified and bounced around more off of our house than others nearby. It does have a kind of white noise, soothing effect after a while, but some nights it is seemingly crushing. Low cloud ceiling and the planes fly lower. First few nice days of spring and the motorcycles are in full force cruising at high velocity down the almost empty highway lanes in the middle of the night. Comes with urban living, I know, but there are times when I wish I could just turn it off for a while.
And, lastly, maybe even oddly, the Eastern Screech Owl. We heard this for the first time the other night. I was wide awake dealing with the aftermath of an unwisely chosen caffeinated beverage enjoyed in the late afternoon, tossing and turning. I think I had just fallen asleep, when I heard this outside (on the Sounds tab, scroll down and click on “Descending whinny, monotonic trill” and listen).
What. The. Fuck. Was. That??!!! You know when you’ve been startled awake by something and things seem surreal for a minute or two? Yeah. It was like that but I wasn’t sure if I was still even on planet Earth. I think a glow of sweat came over my brow as I tried to recall what I had just heard and whether it was remotely human or not because it was definitely coming from the backyard and it got me thinking about the guy in our yard last year.
Then M woke up, wide eyed and scared like me.
“What was that!!??” she said.
Being brave Mommy, I said, “Oh, just a possum probably in the backyard.” Do possums even make noise?? I had no idea but usually she doesn’t press things like that at 3AM.
But then I heard it again, in the front yard. And then again within 3 seconds up high in the back yard again! Um, possums don’t move like that!
We only heard a few times and then it was gone. M was sufficiently freaked out and wouldn’t put her feet under the covers or touch the ground to use the bathroom for a good 45 minutes until the levee was about to break, so to speak. Then the next night she had a nightmare about millipedes at the foot of her bed and would only sleep on her pillow. So yeah, that was fun.
But we looked it up for a while the next day to see if we could figure out what it was (thank you, Google!). And now we know what a skunk, fox, possum and raccoon sound like because those were my first few guesses before it dawned on me that it must be something that flies. Something that flies only at night. Ah, yes. The mighty Eastern Screech Owl. Admittedly, I was scared when I heard it, but now I am happy that I did because I am not sure how often that little guy will be passing by our house.
As an interesting but related aside, here’s another difference between my childhood and M’s: the ability to look stuff up online. Stuff with audio. Wouldn’t you know that my whole life I thought there was only one kind of katydid sound. Not true. All summer we’ve been hearing a tick tick tick tick tick tick tick sound at dusk. At first, I thought one of the electrical transformers on the telephone pole across the street was on the fritz, but then we started hearing it in the yard and various places. Then I thought it might be a bat, but (thank you again, Google!) the bats around here don’t make sound in a range humans can hear without assistance. Long story short…we discovered together it is the sound of the Greater Angle Winged Katydid! So she is hearing them, or at least the cousins of the ones I knew. What a lovely sound!
Night sounds. One difference between M’s slumber and mine growing up. I guess I struggle with the idea that too many of them are artificial, but sometimes we get lucky.
* As a side note, yes, you read that right…we still play musical beds in our house…M has been a crappy sleeper since the day she was born. I am not joking when I tell you that her first year was comprised of 2 or 3 daytime naps that NEVER lasted more than 20-30 minutes, and it never got better. Because of that, sleep has become the lowest common denominator for me, no matter where it happens, which is why we have chosen the various sleeping arrangements we have for these past 5 years. Maybe if Elizabeth Pantley comes out with The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Kindergarteners, we’ll gain some ground because the first two books certainly haven’t stuck! And we all have our parenting styles and skeletons don’t we, so I’ll take a blind eye to yours too.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz.