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  • Vermilion Voice

Prairie Wool

Happiness is a good night’s sleep I’ve been struggling to sleep at night. It’s quite a common problem. More than twenty-five percent of Canadians report having trouble getting to or staying asleep.

Apparently, the average person sleeps about 7.2 hours each night, which frankly doesn’t sound too bad. I don’t get that much rest. I tend to drop off sitting bolt upright during one of the perch-on-the-edge-of-your-seat crime dramas I watch in the evening and then snuggle in my cozy bed two hours later, staring bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the ceiling.

The children that ride my school bus don’t appear to struggle with insomnia. I’m envious. I’ve seen kids fall asleep on the cold, vinyl seat of a bus in between, pulling away from the schoolyard and reaching a stop sign one block away. I’ve watched kids fall so deeply asleep that when we arrive at their house, I must stop the bus and physically walk to their seats to rouse them. Often, they’re so utterly relaxed they slither to the floor like gunny sacks of potatoes or nod off during fifty-five or so rousing choruses of “The Wheels On the Bus.” Once, as we clattered down a bumpy gravel road, a little girl fell asleep with her head propped on a giant chocolate cupcake, icing side up. Children can fall asleep anywhere.

How do they do it?

Some men I’ve known also have an uncanny knack for sleep. Namely, my son Chris. When he was little, he’d ride in Dad’s old Case tractor as my father cultivated fields. Chris would arrive home filthy but happy after a full day spent recumbent on the cab floor, sleeping soundly as his head slammed against the window repeatedly. Dad would always marvel at that.

As Chris became older, things didn’t change. He snoozed through not one but two major root canals. Who does that? When I visit the dentist, I put on a brave face but, in fact, am a stiff and fearful woman with my eyes rolled back in my head, my hands clenched in my lap, and my body taut as a violin string.

Chris, on the other hand, unwinds completely. In this instance, as the chair was reclined, his mouth was clamped open, a 1000-watt bulb was trained on his face, and two gowned attendants yanked at his teeth, he enjoyed a blissful time of repose. Then, after the fearsome task was accomplished, they had to bloody wake him up! Now that’s impressive.

The only time something remotely like that happened to me was when I was a teenager, visiting the family of a friend attending college in London, England. With her mother’s characteristically generous spirit, the lady insisted I sleep beside her in the only bed while the dad was relegated to the sofa.

During that first fateful night, I fell asleep in a flash, dreamt I was toppling from the peak of Buckingham Palace, and latched onto the poor woman for dear life, pulling her close and clawing mercilessly at her person in an attempt to save myself from an unspeakable death. They couldn’t wake me up.

The next evening my bed was laid out on the sofa. This was as it should have been, to begin with, but it’s also where I started staring at the ceiling late into the night. Then, because I felt like a fool, but now what’s my problem? Staring at the roof isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Happiness is a good night’s sleep.

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