#63 The Cradle Brakes

There isn’t one photo of my mother actually holding me. That doesn’t mean she never did, but I have no memory of it. At night I was not told stories, read a book or sung songs. I have no memory of either parent in my room. There was no such thing as being tucked in. I was to go to sleep like a puppy. SCREECH!  Hold on. A puppy has caring owners who wake when the puppy makes the slightest puppy peep.

It’s only in movies that parents come in to say goodnight. A parent coming in to our room meant trouble.

Before I could walk, I managed to get my chubby hands and knees below me, and my little tush in the air. I didn’t go to sleep. I’d rock myself. I’d rock and rock back and forth. The more I rocked the harder I’d rock. I would go so far forward my head would touch the mattress. And then I’d rock sitting back as hard as I could, over and over, instinctively to tire myself to fall asleep. I don’t think I was still in a crib, but whatever I was on moved, and I was the engine. Forward was stronger than backward and the bed traveled across the room I shared with my older brother.

It isn’t just that I have a vague memory of rocking, for I do. But after my father died, my mother told me a story. She told many of her stories after he died, and so there is no way of knowing what is true. I recently got a copy of my grandmother’s death certificate just to confirm that she really did hang herself as my mother told me the night my father died.

In conversation my mother would bring up subjects in such a non-sequitur way, I never learned how to react. When I was about 20, sitting in the kitchen, she was complaining about a chip in her china or the price of hamburger when she asked me if I remembered the rocking. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant trip through my baby book. She itemized just some of the ways I had purposely made life difficult for her. As if I made a little list in my crib at night. The rocking was an offense. It was a crime against her. I was a monstrous creature interfering with the precious mother’s sleep.

So one night when the rocking began, she sent my father into the room. And she said, “I don’t know what he did to you. But you never rocked yourself to sleep again.” And she grinned.

I’m sure I did, I was just quiet about it.


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