3 a.m.

I am awake at 3 a.m. a lot these days. Something happens at that hour of night (because who are we kidding, that’s still night) that makes Sam stir and wake briefly enough to realize that where he really wants to be is in bed with me.

Through the baby monitor I hear his little feet hit the floor, pitter-patter across his room and open the door. He stands in the door and says “mama, can I come and snuggle with you?” and when I tell him yes, he scurries down the hallway into our room and into our bed. The first time he did this a few months ago I got out of bed to see what was wrong. I found him in his doorway, eyes half open, holding his favorite blanket “gump-gump” and his stuffed sheep Baa, ready for snuggling.

At 3 a.m. there is no way I can say no to a little boy in pajamas. During the day I am usually strong enough to hold on to the few parenting principles I do have, but at that hour my principles are asleep. I help Sam into bed, make room for him on my pillow and pull him close. He grabs hold of a good chunk of my hair – to smell, to rub, to twist – as he falls asleep again, his warm little body relaxing next to me.

I could go back to sleep at this point. But instead I lie awake every night, watching the minutes tick away on my alarm, listening to the competing snores coming from Sam and Drew. It’s a peaceful time of night.

Or it would be, if 3 a.m. wouldn’t be that time of night when my mind likes to go wild. My sleep interrupted, my thoughts go where I really don’t want them to go, where they normally don’t go during the light of day.

Thoughts like: was I kind enough to my grandmother the last time I saw her over the summer? Probably not.  I was actually kind of mad at her – for being frail, for not feeling well, for sleeping most of the time we were there. I mean, I just traveled 12 hours with a toddler to see her and she is sleeping? That was pretty mean of me to think that. And selfish. And just plain awful, right? And now here we are… No more grandma.

Shit, I must remember to put lemon juice on my shopping list. And honey. Or do we still have honey? I made gallons of lemonade this week for Sam’s sore throat. We can never have too much honey or lemon juice in this house. If he is not feeling better by Monday I probably have to stay at home with him, maybe see the doctor.

I hate making excuses at my office when I stay at home with Sam. It feels like I am out at least a few times a month and I don’t want people to think I am not committed or reliable. But I also hate sending a sick kid to school. No choice there, really.

I really should go to sleep. And I really should try to move Sam’s head off my arm before my arm falls off.

Why hasn’t Peter responded to my e-mail? I mean, what is this all about, this writing to me eight times a day when he thought I would come and see him on my way to Hungary and then nothing? How did he think this would work? He is married. I am married. We are not the quick-Frankfurt-layover people anymore. God that seems like such a long, long time ago, when that was OK. When that was what I wanted. Frankly, even if I weren’t married or didn’t have moral objections against an affair, the sheer logistics of sexy underwear, hotel rooms, or having to shave my legs in the winter exhaust me. I travel in yoga pants and sneakers. I am too old for airport hotel room shenanigans.

It’s only 4:30. I can still sleep a solid hour and probably feel OK.

I really can’t forget the lemon juice. Lemon juice, lemon juice, lemon juice.

What are we going to do with this house? Staying is so tempting, but so is starting over in a new place. Maybe this time we’ll know what we want in a house and we won’t end up with a too-small, too-old place with creaky floors and a jungle in the back yard. Drew is right: it does feel weird to be planning our next move based on how much money he inherited from his dad. It seems wrong to be planning a future with a dead man’s money. But maybe that’s what he wanted. What parent wouldn’t want to help their child?

I wish Drew would talk more about how he’s doing since his father died. They didn’t talk for 10 years then the man dies just as soon as they reconciled – that can’t be easy on anyone.

Lemon juice.


Drew turns and I can see that the alarm clock behind him now shows 5 a.m. It will go off soon. Vivaldi, Four Seasons, Winter. How fitting. That’s the music they played when grandma’s ashes were scattered.

Drew reaches out across Sam to hold my hand, stroke my face.

“Are you awake?” he whispers.


“Were you crying?”

“Nah, just thinking about stuff.”

Sam stretches and yawns in my arms.

Drew brings him his warm milk. Sam plays with my hair and drifts off again as he drinks it. I hear Drew downstairs eating breakfast, catching the morning news, packing Sam’s lunch bag.

The house smells like toast and Drew’s cologne.

It’s time to start the day.

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