Day 17: The whimsy of the wee hours
April 17, 2020
(JNS)—I don’t sleep much. I never have; a good five hours was all I ever needed to feel refreshed and go about my day.
But in the past eight years, that’s dwindled down to about three hours a night (it did correlate with the birth of my fourth child and the fact that I moved from newspaper print to online journalism). I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true: I have the email, social-media posts and computer time logs to show for it.
Not that it’s something to brag about. Quite the contrary! It’s just that I can get so much done, and I do have an uncanny knack for staying awake.
Of course, that was before the coronavirus. These days, it can dwindle to two full hours or fits and starts of elongated naps.
My kids think I exaggerate. Well, they used to, until each one of them realized it for himself. They’ve tried to tiptoe into the basement to use one of the computers to play a game... and BOO! There’s mom, tapping away on the keyboard.
Anyway, as the East Coast (and my family) sleeps, I take in the quiet. It’s a good time to write, organize photos, plan the week’s dinners, RSVP for events. To correspond with all the teacher requests that are impossible to get to during the workday and to make lists of all the house repairs that are impossible to get done, along with the respective sales reps you need to call to accomplish that.
In the wee hours, I can listen to news or music without ear buds, without getting looks to keep the sound down. I can sort and throw a batch of laundry into the washer for the next day or empty the dishwasher.
In fact, that’s what I went to do last night, leaving my basement hovel to check on the status of clean plates and make a cup of tea (a consummate coffee-drinker, that’s never a good idea at certain hours). The kitchen light was on, and there sat my oldest son—the displaced college student—tinkering on his laptop.
I looked at him. He looked at me. I looked at the clock.
“It’s almost 4,” I said. “What are you doing?”
Notice that I did not register any surprise. This is a house of wandering Jews.
“I’m off-schedule,” he replied.
That’s the understatement of the year.
“Well,” I posed, “want some tea?”
He paused for a second, but then decided to get some sleep.
As he went upstairs, I thought, when you go to bed at 4, what time do you wake? I mean, at that point, you might as well roll right into the next day.
Not so long ago, that was filled with possibility. It meant taking a brisk walk, dropping off borrowed books at the library, being at the post office when it opened to stamp your mail or packages, and then stopping for a cup of steaming Joe to go at your neighborhood coffee shop.
Now it means waiting optimistically for one of the few open markets or pharmacies to unlock their doors at 6:59 sharp, hoping to nab a roll of toilet paper.
Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.
This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).