Four-thirty a.m. The house is wonderfully silent. I wake from my recurring dream in which Barry Manilow and I co-own a pasta sauce company called “Looks Like Tomatoes” and grab my nasal spray. It’s cedar season in Austin, so my body’s practically bursting with allergy medicine. Last week I called myself “One Singulair Sensation”, but nobody thought it was funny, so I stopped. I drift off to sleep again, now dreaming I’m a hip hop singer named Allegra D, when I’m jolted awake by a primal scream reminiscent of Amazon jungles and bikini waxes. Jack’s awake.
I rush into his room only to find his compact, 3 year-old body peacefully snoring on his “Heroes of Transportation” sheets. (Which, sadly, don’t have pictures of toll booth workers or baggage handlers, only airplanes and trains. Like a 747 could reroute a suitcase from Reno to Vegas with only seconds to spare.) Seeing his blissfully innocent state, I wonder if it was actually him I heard scream. Maybe it was something outside. A premenstrual cat, perhaps. Relieved, I go back to bed.
For exactly 10 seconds.
Now Jack’s shrieking louder than a contestant on “The Price Is Right” covered in fire ants. His red face, wild hair and glazed expression remind me of something, but what? Oh, right. Nick Nolte’s mug shot. I rub my hands on Jack’s back and miraculously, it works. He immediately stops howling, crashes onto his bed and falls asleep. What did I just do? And why the hell didn’t I know how to do it three years ago? I stare in awe at my hands and decide my skin must be leaking “may-cause-drowsiness” Benadryl. Cool. Back to bed.
For exactly 10 seconds.
Now Jack and I are a bad version of shampoo bottle directions: Scream, Rub, Repeat. After two hours of this heartless torture, I’m ready to confess to anything–even my real weight and SAT scores. No black hood or electric nipple clamps needed. But at 7 a.m., Jack suddenly wakes up smiling. I stare at him morosely with my bloodshot eyes and wonder when I was impregnated by Dick Cheney.
“Jack, sweetie,” I croak. “Why you were screaming?” “There were snakes in my bed,” he says quietly. I chuckle. Silly, innocent children. When will they ever learn that snakes are only found on planes? I take a deep breath, decide to book a hotel room for myself ASAP and gently offer Jack the explanation only a child of mine could understand. “Never worry about snakes, honey,” I say, holding back a sneeze and reaching for the tissues. “They’re allergic to you.” Then I furiously rub my hands all over his little head and hope for an early nap.