Thursday, November 16, 2006

things that go bump in the night

Ever been awake in the dead of the night? Surely everyone has, at one time or another.

Lately, I've been awake at odd hours, looking after my son (see previous post). Even when he's settled again, and I've returned to my bed, I lie there listening, alert to any sound that could indicate I'm needed. Last night- lying, listening - I realised that there are all kinds of weird noises in the wee hours in our house.

Some of these night noises are comforting and well-known.

Each evening around midnight, there is the mournful screeching of a faraway goods train as it rounds a sharp bend. When we first moved here, I thought it was a solitary, sad cry. Often I heard the train as I was sitting alone, feeding an infant in the half-dark. It seemed the train was calling out in both pain and resignation, as it rounded the corner on its track. With time and familiarity, though, the goods train has become like a reliable old friend. The sound is a happy one - a tireless train forging ahead. I hear it as I head for bed late sometimes and think - Ah, there's the goods train ..... all is right with the world.

Another routine sound is the thumping, crashing, romping of possums across our tin roof. Although initially this can be startling (because it really, truly does sound like three fully-grown men are having rooftop races), I soon relax and smile to myself. Our possums must be the boldest, bounciest possums in Australia.

I'm used to the fruit bats, who squeak now and then through the night. I barely notice the dog's whinnying snoring. I'm reassured by the soft thud as the newspaper hits the front lawn.

But last night there were mysterious sounds, as well. First there came a soft rhythmic hiccuping. I was intrigued, and after a moment I shook back the covers to go check the children. Laura slept, motionless, with one irresistable peachy cheek uppermost. Even my soft kiss didn't wake her. She was not the secret hiccup culprit.

Benjamin was pale but breathing quietly, and still. The hiccuping could not be blamed on the little guy.

Fatty woke when I asked him if he could hear the noise...

me: "You awake hon?"

Fatty: (drowsily) "Hmmm?"

me: "Oh, you're awake! Can you hear that noise?"

pause while Fatty listens obligingly

Fatty: (slurring a little) "Sounds like someone hiccuping."

me: "Yes! It does! Except no-one is hiccuping!!"

Before we could conclusively solve the mystery of the hiccup (Fatty decided ' It must be a bird'. Of course, Birdman would think that), there came another noise. This one was a pathetic whimpering. And no, it wasn't Fatty begging me to let him get back to sleep.

I got up again, this time with a heavy sigh. Which child wanted me? Was Laura sick, too? But again, I found both children slumbering. I stayed awhile in each bedroom, to be sure. Not a sound. I returned to bed, and the noise came again. Fatty began to snore softly.

I lay listening to the whimpering come and go. I knew Fatty, the dog, and my children were safe. I had no energy to spare for investigating further. Eventually, the noise stopped, and I fell asleep, pondering the strangeness of noises of the night.


susan said...

Sometimes you just don't want to know... as long as all is well with you and yours, bury your head under the covers and try to go back to sleep.

Motherkitty said...

It was probably some poor animal with a tummy ache who needed to see the doctor but the doctor was otherwise engaged.

I'm glad it wasn't some one in your house with a bad case of hiccups and upset stomach.

Kerri said...

Hmmmm, most peculiar! I've heard that koalas cry like babies, but I've never actually heard one do it (at least that I can recall). Have you?
I hope Ben is feeling better by now. Poor little guy. Mum, I hope you get some good sleep tonight!!

Mimi said...

Your life sounds so adventurous. I too love the mournful sound of the trains passing. We live four miles from a train depot, we do not have a tin roof however and so the opposums can cavort in quiet. We have bats but only see them in summer and no fruit bats here.


Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I suspect that it was probably some animal...maybe one of the opossums babies had the hiccups and was whining a bit up on your tin roof.

I'm glad Ben was sleeping comfortably and is feeling better.

I find it amazing how as mothers we can sleep through a noisy thunderstorm but hear every wimper that our child makes.

Anonymous said...

our possums much different then yours don't get on our roof, but instead get in the garbage.

Anonymous said...

OK, I hoped at the end of your story that you would have found out what the noise was! Now you have me wondering, "What was it???" That would drive me nuts until I figured out what it was. As far as trains passing, when I hear one, I always imagine that I am on the train, and that it is whistling to warn the motorists. Did I ever tell you that I enjoy your writing? Well...I do!

John Cowart said...

It’s all good but that forth paragraph in particular is exquisitely written!

Hauntingly beautiful.

shellyC said...

I love the sounds of trains too - in the distance!!

Of course you will let us know when you find the source of the noise - strange though - very strange.

T. said...

Just back now, and I'm so sorry to hear you've been fighting the vomit bug. I hope all is well in your home and all signs of the little bugger has been vanquished.

As for things that go bump in the night, it was shortly after Shalebug passed away that I began to wake up in the middle of the night and get creeped out by all the noises. I have since identified most sounds and made peace with them even.

But there is one sound, like someone hammering on the floor, that I can't identify. And when it happens (only at night) my damn dog perks up his ears and starts barking into space.

Freaks me right out.

I refuse to believe in ghosts.