Two years ago, Sam and I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid. The salesdude tried to steer us toward the standard Civic because the hybrid wait list was lengthy; the mileage difference, in his opinion, wasn't worth the cost; and for thousands less we could drive off the lot that very same day! He also tried to sell us pukey colors (we weren't having it) and, eventually, a Minivan (over my dead body). We stuck to our tree-huggin' principles, waited five weeks and spent the extra Benjamins determined to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. The car's been terrific, not because of the awesome mileage but because of the single most valuable feature I accidentally discovered late last year. Turns out that the cab-she's sound proof.
I know this not because of any hot and raunchy action taking place between consenting adults in the backseat on a weeknight-oh, were it so. Rather, I know this because during the past six months, I've spent countless nights in the garage, curled up on the passenger seat with a drool-stained pillow stuffed under my head. This contemporary Japanese import has become my fortress, a midnight sanctuary of solace shielding me from the unhinging shrieks of my otherwise enchanting child, who obstinately refuses to sleep like a normal human being.
It should be noted that our home is no Kennedy compound. Our house is so small that we promptly disabled our baby monitor the first day we used it because feedback was the sole transmission. And, anyway, the beautiful hardwood floors of our bungalow are so efficient that I've been frequently fooled into thinking the nerve-rattling wails of my daughter are coming from directly underneath my side of the bed. I think the folks at Sprint could benefit by studying the sound conductivity of white oak.
Sometime around her first birthday, my Little Buddha-who'd been a deliriously lovely 12-hour snoozer since the day she met and began a devoted love affair with her right thumb-was snatched away and replaced by a changeling, no doubt direct cosmic punishment for my having bragged to someone at some point about what a great sleeper she was.
A demon resides in the room down the hall now, a demon that wakes between two and seven times every night, howling for comfort and accepting it only from me. It's all desperate squawking, gagging, snorting, coughing, begging, fire-breathing grunts of 'MAH-ma!'and 'MAH–mee!'until dark-thirty in the morning. There are no pleas for the father; she wants nothing to do with him and her head just spins around and around, smoke billowing from her ears, when he attempts to serve as my understudy. It's all me, all the time and, quite frankly, I'm over it. Inhumane levels of prolonged interrupted sleep + nothing left to give = submission of resignation papers.
What delivered me to self-imposed garage exile was one exceedingly terrible night last October during which I failed every parenting test I ever set for myself plus a couple more described in what I call 'The Users Manual.'This tome, What To Expect: The Toddler Years, can at times be enlightening. However, I found it most useful when hurled forcefully across a room. Trust me on this one. Give that fat bitch a good overhand throw just once and see how much better you feel. It's a far more effective stress reliever than any sleep-training pointers offered in its 904 pages, and believe me when I say, we've tried them all. But I digress.
This night, as I said, was a bad one. I lost all composure and ability to reason. After screaming at Ruby to shut the fuck up—an action which was met, not surprisingly, by an equal and opposite reaction—I decided finally to cut myself free. I grabbed my keys, walked silently from the house and started the ignition in my hybrid. I was barefoot, wearing a pink tank top and striped pajama bottoms with the gentle image of Bambi on the left leg. I had no bra, no money, no identification. I made my way out into the night, head up, shoulders back, keeping a trembling lid on a wrath unmatched even by Bobby Knight. I was determined to get as far away as my energy-efficient car would take me-L.A. perhaps, or Yuma. It didn't matter. I had no idea where I was going, but I was going there directly and I wasn't coming back.
I drove a total of four blocks before noticing that my gas tank was empty, which even in a hybrid is still empty. It was a stinging metaphor for what my life had become: a taunting chuckle at how uncomplicated it used to be. I pulled into an empty parking lot, turned on some tragic, femme-acoustic indie music and set myself to cryin'.
It's at 2 in the morning, while trying to escape the inconsolable screaming of a child with no discernable problem, that I myself am inconsolable. It's these moments—and I'm about to say the un-sayable here—during which I absolutely loathe parenthood. These darkest moments unveil a geyser of resentment and regret for the way parenthood has transmogrified my life. But I chose this life and I knew, while recovering in the parking lot that night-disheveled, reckless and running on fumes—that I simply had to find a way to survive the suffocation of nightly despondency.
My vehicular meltdown helped me realize I could find my peace without ever running away. Because, really, I don't want to leave my home forever. During most of my waking hours, I love being a mother. It's challenging, certainly, but it's also thrilling, and that's the magic of it. So now, when I need a time-out while Ruby is crying it out, I click my heels together and repeat to myself, 'There's no place like the garage. There's no place like the garage. There's no place like the garage.'
The cab of my hybrid. That's where you're likely to find me writing my next column, a soggy pillow supporting my head and my only companions the glow of my laptop, my husband sleeping next to me in the driver's seat and soothing, sublime silence.
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