Jeni Marinucci: Panic Button Years


When You Can't Sleep Because the World Seems Dark Even with Lights On

Parental Insomnia is next level terrible

parental insomnia

I can't sleep.

It's after 1 am and I'm lying in bed, wide awake again. Tonight I wake up thinking about a townhouse complex tennis court I often drive past. The linked buildings that partner the court were built in the early 1980's and they're covered in brown siding that looks like frozen chocolate. The homes have frozen also; no one has weeded the large planting beds separating the units from the sidewalk where modernity passes by on skateboards and electric scooters, and the one-car driveways are filled edge-to-edge with square late-model cars, 15 years past the showroom regardless of the calendar. These are cars for large families with small budgets. These are sensible cars.

The tennis court sits to the left of the central square. The fence surrounding it is very high,12 feet or more. It's meant to keep tennis balls from bouncing into the street but there is no need. No one plays tennis here. No one ever has. People who drive sensible, late-model cars to factory jobs don't have much use for tennis. Two rusty and torn hockey nets of different sizes are pushed against one end of the court. The game has been abandoned, probably owing to the cracked asphalt surface inside the fence. The Ontario winter has taken this unused court in her hands and crumbled it like a cracker.

Behind the tennis court is a concrete pool. You can't see it from the street but I know its there. When I was very young I swam there with a friend whose name I've long forgotten. We went to the pool by ourselves with towels around our shoulders and cans of warm pop in a plastic grocery bag. I can remember the delicious smell of pool chlorine and hot concrete and I loved how that smell would dry in my hair so I could take it home for later. Pools don't smell like that now. That summer smell makes me long for the childhood freedoms we didn't recognize or appreciate until now, when we no longer have the time for such indulgences.

But tonight, here in my bed alone with my insomnia, what seems worse than the loss of time itself is knowing we can't press the full weight of our memories into our children. A parent's story can only sit on the surface of a child's mind, because children minds need room so they may be inscribed with their own histories. Our memories are ours alone and they will fade and disappear when we do. This is what keeps my eyes open tonight long past the time they should have closed.

I'll have some tea.  

I start to cry when I open the cupboard. It's the cumin. Cumin is heavy and falls to the bottom of a dish, but it doesn't hide. I made my babies a soup spiced with cumin for many meals when they were small. I fed it to them with a spoon and they would bite at it, eager for the taste. I made that soup so often the pot became stained from black beans and spice. I made that soup often because they loved it, and I loved feeding it to them, even when they were capable of using spoons themselves. But I'm glad I did, because they don't eat it any more. "It's too heavy," they say. They "don't like cumin anymore."

I don't know why I still keep the glass spice jar full. I haven't used that spice in a long time. Maybe if I throw the jar away then I will forget how they once loved cumin, how they were once babies who bit at a spoon and made beautiful messes and that I once stained a pot making soup.

I put the jar back on the shelf. I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand and close the door.

This post was previously published on the highly irritable blog.