And honored among wagons, I was prince of the apple towns. — Dylan Thomas
I find him on the stairs.
“I can’t sleep, dada.”
It’s late, and I walk him back to his room. The faint music that sings his rest every night has stopped.
“What’s the matter, boo?”
I tuck him in.
“I’m too tired,” he says. “What if I stay up all night?”
“You’ll fall asleep. If it takes a long time you’ll wake up later in the morning.”
Leaning over the headboard, I can just brush his forehead with my lips.
“Tell me a story, dada.”
“When you were little.”
THE OLDEN DAYS
He’s always asking me how it was then. In my time, I called it the olden days. It was what I always asked my parents.
“I had my own bedroom,” I tell him. “Upstairs. At night, when a car went by, sometimes the headlights shone in the window, and I could see shadows on the wall, and they were the people in the car.”
It’s true. Sometimes, I could hear an airplane overhead. Once, light from the plane came in the window, and for an instant, I saw shadows of the passengers on the wall.
Where was they going? South America? Yes. They must be going to South America. After all, my mother and father had gone there once too, on a ship.
And the passengers in the airplane were talking. A woman leaned her head back and laughed.
For an instant. I saw the shadows as they went by.
And I was asleep.
SAN JACINTO HOTEL
Every winter, we went to Palm Springs, and stayed at the San Jacinto Hotel. And here is what I remember of that:
The San Jacinto Hotel
has eight rooms, one TV,
swimming pool, a dining nook.
Across the street, Mt. San Jacinto.
Three girls from Los Angeles
arrived yesterday. Noses painted
with white cream, they collect
sugar packets from the tables
This afternoon their mother takes them
to the magic shop on Palm Canyon.
They learn to make the red ball
disappear from the cup.
Hold it in your hand.
It’s a real ball, they say.
They can make it disappear.
Their mother is beautiful,
with long legs like Hedy Lamarr’s.
Alone in the bedroom,
she paints her face with rouge,
sings “Dear Mr. Gable”
in the mirror.
Ten o’clock. The girls, in nightgowns,
sneak out. They want a look
at desert stars, the Milky Way.
They dance around the pool,
pour sugar on the ground,
watch how it glitters—
Magic, they say, In the morning,
it turns to snow.
There really were three girls, and they really did tell me that the sugar would turn to snow. And I told them that once I saw the people from an airplane on my bedroom wall.
At least, that’s what it seemed.
“Will you turn on the music?” he says.
Linda Ronstadt fills the room with lullabye, distant and soft.
“What land will you be going?” he says.
“The Land of Nod. What about you?”
“To Dreamland,” he says.
“Ah,” I say. “Maybe I’ll see you later.”
“See you, dada.”
Row, row, row your boat.
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Image Credit: The lovely painting (third image), Desert Adobe, by Jill Louise Campbell, is commercially available.
Got a bedtime story? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
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