It’s the future now, silly.

One of the small triumphs in my life has been an ability to play around with constructs of time.

In concrete terms, the ability to be in a difficult situation and place myself outside of that situation, at a point in the distant future, and ask myself:

Will you someday think this is funny?

If the answer is


then it opens the possibility of choosing to laugh about it now. In the present.

The accompanying question, slightly less important, but interesting and relevant nonetheless, is:

If you were an onlooker watching this situation unfold, would you find it humorous?

If again the answer is


 then it is worth questioning whether there might, in fact, be a modicum of humor to be found in the current situation.

That is the preface to what unfolded last night.

It's bedtime,
I told him, scooping him up after night-time rituals had been concluded.

he said.

Uhh, yes.
I said, firmly holding his squirming body.

he said, using his minuscule meaty hand to grab my cheek and force a direct gaze into his eyes.

You want a book?
I asked.

he said.

You want two books? I asked for clarification; his 21-month old enunciation of most words still a project in progress.

he said, pointing.

I said.
As a fellow bibliophile, I can respect that. Go ahead and choose two books.

I set him down next to one of the piles of books strewn around the bedroom he shares with a brother; there was more than one pile to choose from. He made his decision.

Uh, I said. That's three books.

No.he said.

Nope. I said.
That's three books.

No. he said.
Two. Two books. 

I said.
That's three books.

he said.

I said.
Three books.

he said.

That is simply not factual.
I said.
You're holding three books.

he said.

I am right.
I said.
You are wrong. You're holding three books. But for the sake of getting you to sleep soon, I will allow three books on this one occasion.

Two. he said.

I scooped him up again; a task made more uncomfortable with the three, or two books digging into my chest as he held them tight between us.

You wanna lie down in your crib now, or do you want me to hold you and sing for a few minutes?

Uh-huh, he said, lying his head on my chest, or rather, cranking his neck high over the corner of a book so he could sort of rest his head against my shoulder.

The titles of the books he beds with vary, but one thing is constant: they are hardcover.

I sang for quite some time, almost making it through a single verse of

Old MacDonald had a Giraffe,
when there was a clatter.

he said.

Did you drop a book?
I asked; a question to which I already knew the answer.

he said.
Two books.

I informed him.
You now have two books. 

he stretched angrily in the dark for the errant literature.

Unfortunately, the moon was on duty and an errant shaft of light squeezed its way into the corner of the bedroom. The tiny pool of light was enough illumination to remind him of the many other book options he had.

he said, pointing to a completely different title.

No. No no no no and no. 

he said insistently, shark to blood, his desire for this book growing in proportion to my irritation.

That Richard Scarry book,
I said,
is a wonderful book, and I love it too, and it is also two feet tall. I am not rocking you to sleep while you're holding the big book. 

Note: this is not an exaggeration. It is literally two feet tall. And sixteen inches wide. I measured. My mom gave it to us years ago and it has inexplicably stayed intact, through many hurricanes of the domesticated wild child variety. It is a great book. And it is huge. Physically huge. I did not want to be gently rocking him to sleep while he was holding this giant book.


I said, as I gently rocked him to sleep while he held the giant book.
This is so not comfortable. 

he said.
Two books.

I'm going to put you in your crib now.
I said. Unless your brother is okay with you lying with him. 

He can lay by me,
his tired brother grammatically-incorrectly murmured from his bed five feet away.

I gently maneuvered the little boy, his three little books, his one big book, two stuffed animals, blanket, and poker chips into place under the covers by his brother.

May I lie by you for a couple minutes?
I asked my older boy.


We laid there in silence, the only sounds that of the gentle night breeze outside the window, and the occasional non-stop rustling of the younger one practicing flopping from belly to back and back again, accompanied by a whispered monologue:

Book. Two. Uh-huh. Oh no! Uh-oh. Book. Baa. Baa. Baa? Uh-oh. Book. Two book. Uh-huh. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Moo. Baa. Baa! BAA! Woof. Two book. Mama. Mama. Uh-oh. Oh no. Oh boy. Oh no. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Two book.

His brother exhibited a degree of patience extraordinary for his eight years, but finally whispered in the kindest, gentlest manner you could possibly imagine:

Can you PLEASE stop moving around and talking? I'm trying to go to sleep.

His little brother, junior by six-and-a-half years, responded with how I imagine Winston Churchill might have responded if he was woken in the middle of the night by a door-to-door evangelist asking if he wanted to join prayer circle.

he screamed in the night's stillness; six inches from his brother's face.

I literally watched in the blackness as atoms split and sound waves parted at the vocal blast.

I said when my hearing had climbed back up to fifty percent or so.

It's time for you to be in your own bed.

I am bigger and stronger, so I used that advantage, the only one I had left, and found enough squirmy limbs and fat to get him in the air and launch him the five feet into his own crib. With a thud, he collapsed onto the flimsy - but super comfortable - mattress, with a sigh, a grunt, and another noise explosion that made me question whether a diaper change might be in order.

I convinced myself internally.

What happens in his diaper tonight can stay in his diaper. Tomorrow's another day. 

I laid myself down on the floor next to his crib and reached through the slats to hold his grubby little boogery hand.

Book. he murmured.

No book. I murmured back.

Time to sleep.

he said confidently.

I whisper-sung to him for a long while and almost made it to the second verse of

- The Ants Go Marching -

that's the one where one ties her shoe - before darkness overtook my eyelids and I nodded off on the cold cold hard floor.

I awoke a great while later to feel the absence of that warm little booger-smeared hand. I panicked for a nanosecond before remembering he was in his bed prison and wasn't smart enough to escape yet, so he was likely fine. The moon was hiding, or taking a pee or something behind a cloud, so I could only listen in the chilly blackness.

I strained carefully to hear signs of life. One child five feet away, slumbering with grunty breaths. The other, the one in the jail bed next to me?

Where is he? Is he breathing? Is he okay? Did he get out? Did he climb out a window? What's the matter? Why can't I hear anything? Should I turn on the light?

The moon chose this moment to make a starlet's entrance, gracefully sliding out from behind her cloud curtain and providing a spotlight for the scene in front of me; the actual curtains providing a proscenium for this nightly theatrical production.

Simultaneously as my eyes processed what was in front of me, my ears caught the whispering of a monologue not quite internal, but almost. A whispered murmuring, repeated, accompanied by the rustle.

The rustling of paper. Of paper turning. Paper pages turning.

The boy, sitting up in bed, in what had been pitch-black darkness, Braille-reading his way through Richard Scarry; reading to himself in a whispery monotone.

Book. Two. Uh-huh. Oh no! Uh-oh. Book. Baa. Baa. Baa? Uh-oh. Book. Two book. Uh-huh. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Moo. Baa. Baa! BAA! Woof. Two book. Mama. Mama. Uh-oh. Oh no. Oh boy. Oh no. Uh-oh. Moo. Baa. Two book.

He looked up and made eye contact by the light of the moon. He grinned big, and stood up wobbly with his book in the half-darkness.


he said.
Hello! Dada. Book. Two book. 

I sighed, and took a deep breath, and thought of the distant future, when I will someday laugh.