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The Night Shift

My daughter Ella was, at best, reluctant to join us out here in what we laughingly refer to as society. Twenty days past her due date, a Cuban surgeon pulled her from a blood-covered incision in my wife to bring this diaphanous angel to us, still enjoying the protection of vernix and fairly a little surprised to be sucking down oxygen with the rest of humanity while 2009 was still churning on down the tachyon-strewn road of time.

She’s still not adjusted to what most people consider a normal circadian rhythm. She sleeps about eighteen hours a day, but sometimes chooses to make the waking hours in the dead of the night. “Just like her father,” my brain tossed up at 3:30 AM one night, remembering the years and years of nocturnal activity, sitting up writing or watching Star Trek reruns, navigating the digitally hazy streets of Vice City or simply staring into the crisp void of a blackened sky. Unfortunately, many nights this burden falls on my wife, who wakes up to breastfeed our littlest girl and try to comfort the furrowed brow back to something resembling slumber.

Fun side fact: when I was little, I’d place my thumb between my index and middle finger a lot, sometimes sucking it, sometimes just sitting around with my hand that way. Turns out that whenever she’s hungry or eating, Ella does the same. Weirdest damned thing. Wonderful, though.

Somebody’s not ready to sleep just yet …

However, there are nights when my wife can’t take it, and I gladly leap into service. I have, as many would suspect, a method. Since Ella responded to both motion and me singing very, very early, I set up my wife’s iPod docking station next to my black leather recliner in the living room — a wide open expanse of hard wood and earth tones — I tended to cradle Ella in the crook of my arm, parallel to the floor, and “walk it out.”

“… cause you know, I can’t live without my radio …”

Moving slowly but rhythmically, I moved in a lazy oval (I learned sharp turns slowed down her path to sleep) around the living room, often singing in a low voice so there was less concern about my voice carrying (very different from my karaoke hosting days) and more about the vibrations of my voice in my torso, sticking to my lower register as much as possible. I have literally sang every song I know to this girl — “As” by Stevie Wonder, “The Scientist” by Coldplay, “My Girl” by the Temptations, “Smile Like You Mean It” by The Killers, “Raspberry Beret” by Prince, “Alone” by Heart, “Hold My Hand” by Sean Paul and Keri Hilson, plus so many more — and learned that I know far fewer songs by heart than I thought I did (rap songs, sadly, didn’t do anything for her). If the music’s playing, even an instrumental, sure, I can pick up the thread and sing probably fifty or sixty songs … but in the silent coolness of a winter night, sleep-addled size twelve slippers treading along a hardwood floor, my knowledge is considerably less comprehensive.

Hence the iPod. At first, I had music playing through my phone’s earpiece as I sang along (which immediately upped the number of songs I could pull off geometrically) but I realized the ambient nature of the sound helped, as Ella was used to the swishing and sloshing of her mother’s innards performing their duties, sustaining life, and the unnatural quiet of the world was sensory deprivation that distracted.

“Why not just sing the same songs over and over?” Good question. The answer: I tried that. Much like her father (again), hearing the same song (or even snippets of the same song, as “Hard” by Rihanna got stuck in my head for almost a week, and I kept interpolating riffs of that, which made her live up to her nickname, Fuss) too often can annoy. Her sister Mooch? That girl can hear the same song, over and over, for … heck, probably days on end, and she’s fine with it. Mooch drove my wife nuts with “We Will Rock You” because it’s on some commercial … which I didn’t realize until after I put it on Mooch’s playlist in my iPod.

But we digress …

So there I am, mostly after 3AM (and unfortunately often on nights before I have to work in the morning), I’ve been making my orbit of empty space, humming and singing along to mostly jazz, slower alternative rock and soul music. As Ella settles down, I am not so confident I could safely lay her back down in the bassinet (sp?) and get back in bed without taking precious moments of rest from my wife. I’ve found it easier to just grab a couple of these “throw” blankets populating the living room, sit down in the recliner, prop a pillow under whichever elbow is supporting Ella’s head, lean the chair back and keep humming until I fall asleep myself. My phone nearby (and Mooch waking up and wandering in as sunlight sneaks through the blinds) has kept me from dangerously oversleeping so far, and I actually spent many nights conked out in this chair after a session of Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t even mind. and it’s a little thing that I have with my new daughter, something I can cherish and embarrass her with as a story when she’s at her rehearsal dinner.

There’s baba’s little angel …

I thought that taking a “normal” job and giving up my night life working schedule (save still doing comics reviews on Wednesday nights) would mean an end to my enjoyment of the quiet of night. Thanks to my new daughter, I have an all new joy in the period when the earth turns away from the sun, and it only cost me a little coherency and my seratonin/melatonin balance …

“… I can’t get to sleep … I think about the implications …”

Playing (Music): “Taking Chances” from the first volume of the Glee soundtrack

NOTE: Since this blog is automatically imported into my Facebook page, I apologize if you comment on it and I don’t respond, as I am taking a sabbatical from social networking for 2010. So me not responding is not personal, I just won’t see the comments … until 2011. Maybe. Also including this disclaimer on blogs, but you’re welcome to go to the blog itself and speak your mind, as I may look there …

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One Response to “The Night Shift”

  1. Brig Feltus Says:

    sending this to the austrian… ;)

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