My usual weekday routine is different this week. I am going to a new place for whole days to write, and listen and talk about writing. My friends are being stalwarts and collecting the children from school. I have not been around for the last two evenings and they have gone to bed without me.
When I finally come in, I go up to see them in their beds, asleep. I always go in just before my own bedtime, but this is an early, unscheduled visit, out of our routine. The youngest lies in a tangle of upside-down-bedding, the poppers on the duvet cover having burst open leaving half the duvet hanging out. Her sheet is not much better underneath her from what I can see. The cursory tucking in round the corners that I go in for seems to have come loose, again. I make a mental note to change her bed, but it will have to wait until she is not asleep in it. As if to somehow soften the jagged edges of unruly bedsheets and tangled duvet covers, she has wrapped herself in another patchwork cotton quilt. She is up to her ears in it like a Russian babushka, keeping out the cold. I kiss her and she opens her eyes and says something. It does not make sense. She is still asleep. I leave the room, treading on towels and clothes and the toys on the floor. Change the bed and pick things up off the floor…
The eldest has probably left her CD player on. She is in the habit of falling asleep to an audio book and as a result can quote the opening passages of Winnie the Pooh, Cat in the Hat and Treasure Island verbatim. I can do the same with the Railway Children, although I did not fall asleep to that – a vinyl record wearing out the needle on the turntable all night being an unacceptable addition to a 1970s nocturnal routine. The cat may be there on the bed too. As the weather at night has taken a colder turn my daughter has dragged out a terrible acrylic tiger print blanket that she begged off her grandmother. I hate it. She loves it. The cat loves it too. I am noting all the things I expected to see when I went in last night. In fact all I remember seeing is what I didn’t expect. She had taken one of my bed t-shirts I had been wearing, one printed in pink owls, and used it as a secondary pillow case. Smell is one of her things, a comfort she says when I am not there to put her to bed, although in truth she puts herself to bed now.
I asked her about it this morning. She said having the smell of me when she falls asleep stops her having bad dreams. As much as we rationalise and reflect and cogitate and ruminate, it is a good reminder that we are still very much governed by animal instincts. And that is not at all a bad thing. Not in my book.
Here is Edward Bear (later named Winnie-The-Pooh), coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping a moment and think of it. And then, he feels that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you.
From Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne