17 August 2006

the canopy

Sitting down at the computer this morning in the lamp-lit map room, I opened up my Word program to bring forth today’s empty page. Some mornings, I almost dread that white rectangle the screen, wishing it could be a more inviting color and not so blaringly, glowingly WHITE. Other days, I am happy to see the blank canvas appear, unaware that it expects anything from me. This morning, I was somewhere in the middle: not so much dreading, because I re-read a few chapters of Bird By Bird last night (a long ago gift from my favorite aunt Jeanne) and woke feeling a little inspired, but also not exactly sure what I should write about.

Sometimes inspiration hits you across the face like running through a wind tunnel. Suddenly, onto the screen popped a little alarm clock and a box that read: Thanksgiving (Overdue.) Now, we use this computer every day, so I am not exactly sure why it chose the middle of August to pull up a calendar reminder from November--(I am guessing that’s why it was marked overdue.) Kind of makes me think it’s more the computer’s issue than mine…

…however, as my hand moved forward to click the box closed, I paused for a minute and thought: maybe I am overdue. I mean, I do tell Jeremy every day that I am thankful for him (at least I try to,) and most mornings I can honestly say that I am really and truly thankful for my cup of coffee. When we sit down to dinner each evening, we usually take a moment to stop and be thankful for our chicken. But beyond that and a few other things, I am not sure how often lately (or since November) I have taken the time to thank God for all the amazing blessings in my life.

Much more typically, the word ‘thankful’ rolls off my tongue as a sigh of relief. “I am so thankful that the weather is no longer a suffocating 800 degrees,” for instance.

Being that the announcement dubbed me overdue makes me realize that I need to go back to the very beginning and try to remember what it felt like when my thanks-giving first had real sincerity. I believe I was five.

My sister, who is almost six years older than me, had an amazing canopy bed that every girl dreams of. It was slung with ruffled white fabric, creating a billowy rooftop for her to fall asleep under. My room was down the hall, and I am sure my own small bed was something cute, but I barely remember it because I hardly ever slept there.

From the years 1978 to at least 1983, I had a ritual. I would go to bed with the bright hall light spilling into my room. I’d pull the covers snuggly around me and recite my prayers: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”…and then my own little goofy addition, which I had merged with lines from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It went: “Goodnight to all, and to all a goodnight. Amen.”

In retrospect, I think I was mainly praying for myself to have a safe night, because I was terrified that there was something frightening lurking inside my closet or in the shadows beneath my bed. I remember tossing and turning and blinking my brown eyes open and closed; I wished for sleep so desperately. Often, I would return to my prayer with a P.S. to God... "and please let me fall asleep fast. Amen again.”

An hour or two later, my sister would come trotting up the curving staircase to her bedroom, and I would wait, listening in the distance as she washed her face and got ready for bed. The minute the lights blinked out, I would tiptoe quietly down the dark hallway in my nightgown, clutching my blanket or a stuffed animal for protection. I would stand at the doorway and see the lump of my sister, lying there ready to doze off, and I would whisper: “Laurie…can I sleep with you tonight?”

Most nights she would begrudgingly agree, and before she could finish saying “yes,” I had flung myself onto the right side of her comfy double bed, nestling myself down under the shelter of the canopy, warm and secure and finally able to sleep.

Other nights, especially as she got older, she would grumble a sleepy “no,” and I would head reluctantly back to my room, grab my yellow afghan and pillow, and dodge monsters as I timidly walked the hallway toward her room again. There, I would settle myself down on the itchy beige carpet, with one little arm reaching across the doorway into the safety of her bedroom…so thankful just to have my sister nearby.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

what a beautiful essay. the muse definitely touched down on you this morning....i'm so glad you're blogging with such regularity...i always look forward to opening your blog and finding a new entry penned there.

ps- would you indulge me with the details on that painting? the title? the artist?