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.