Long before I gave birth to babies whose sleeping patterns were more like periodic naps, I wasn’t much of a sleeper. Mind you, nursing twins until they were a year-and-half old made me rue all those waking hours of my youth when I could have been sleeping. Not that it would do me much good given the scientists claim a person can’t store up sleep the way we can store up body fat. Of course, those same scientists tell us we can’t lose the body fat because we don’t get enough sleep. Is it any wonder I became an English major?
Sister Tater on the other hand could sleep through a bulldozer ripping off the front porch. Honest-to-Pete. Back in the day when we shared a lime-green-and-hot-pink decorated bedroom, I would study her curled underneath that blinding bedspread and wonder how in the name of Jesus and strawberry jam could she sleep until the ungodly hour of 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning? I figured she must be faking sleep to get out of the house chores. I’d probably believe that still if it hadn’t been for having those twins.
The morning my water broke at the very same convenient time as Portland’s morning rush hour, Tim and I tried everything short of calling in a bulldozer to rouse Sister Tater so that she could come care for our number one son while his sisters were being birthed. All to no avail. Tim beat on the door. I rang the loud wall phone. I even yelled outside the bedroom window. She missed the entire thing. We had to call for backup with Tim’s sister, who thankfully did not sleep like the dead and Sister Tater.
Like most things concerning Sister Tater, I envied her Dream Angel abilities. Sleep has eluded me ever since that August day in 1966 when I saw that man they called my daddy asleep in that metal box. I was only 9 but even that was old enough to figure out that sleep was too much like being dead. No telling what happened to a person when they’s dead, or sleeping. There are just too many troubling options.
The biggest one, of course, is bugs.
People who live in the Pacific Northwest don’t really understand why anyone would fear bugs. Up here in the Northwest, people collect bugs like they do pet rocks and pairs of Birkenstocks. Former hippies line collections of bugs up in shadow boxes and display them at dinner parties. They tack the legs of spiders and wings of dragonflies to white muslin and calligraphy little cards identifying them as if they were the honored guests at a Koch fundraiser. They regale each other with stories of which trail they were hiking when they found their prized arthropod. This, you might have guessed, is why they need marijuana shops on every corner in the Pacific Northwest: Their stories are lacking in entertainment value without the aid of organic mood-altering enhancement.
The rest of the country understand that bugs, insects, spiders, snakes, termites, anything of that nature, is not the least bit funny. People have actually died from being bitten by fire ants and recluse spiders. And if you ain’t never stepped barefoot onto a mound of fire ants in the heat of a Georgia summer, you have no idea what Paul experienced on that Road to Damascus. There is no quicker way to have a face-to-face with God himself than being bit by fire ants.
How do you think them snake-handling preachers got into the Holy Roller business? Nothing will make you shout the name of Jesus Christ louder and with more conviction than a nip from a venomous snake. I’ve always said and I believe it to be the Gospel Truth, if there were more bugs and snakes in the Pacific Northwest, a lot more people would find Jesus right quick like.
But out here in Oregon, you can’t even find a pesky armadillo. When we moved into this house a couple of years ago, I swear we were greeted by a yellow-bellied marmot carrying a “Make Love Not War” sign in his forepaws. He was wearing love beads and a pair of John Denver specs. I find it hard to imagine a yellow-bellied creature as anything but harmless, don’t you?
Anyway, I digress. Blame it on the lack of sleep.
If you have never woken up to a cockroach nuzzling in your cleavage, you, too, probably sleep like a back-row Baptist during Sunday’s sermon. But for all the rest of us, that recent headline about doctors pulling a venomous spider outta a woman’s ear is enough to send us into a full-blown insomniac’s state. I know my daughters better not have read that story. Miz Shelby is as terrified of spiders as she is of eternal damnation. So is her twin. If those girls kill a spider they feel as victorious as if they ran the Boston marathon and came in alive. Miz Shelby uses the long end of a vacuum hose to suck the life outta ever spider she comes across. I think Miz Ashley simply screams at such a high pitch the spiders mistake that sound for incoming mortar and run for cover at the neighbor’s house.
Miz Susie, the woman with the brown recluse bedded down inside her ear, went to the doctor because she thought she had water in her ear. The nurse looked inside and, bless her heart, didn’t panic. She told Susie that she thought she had an insect crawling around amidst all that ear wax. She didn’t mention that it was a poisonous one. Miz Susie says now she sleeps with cotton balls plugging her ears.
Can’t say I blame her.
I have friends who claim they sleep naked. In the few hours I do sleep, I don’t dare sleep nekkid because I don’t want any cave-dwelling creatures mistaking any part of me for home.
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? (Zondervan).