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Bedtime story

Bedtime story

by Wolf Pascoe on January 10, 2012

And honored among wagons, I was prince of the apple towns. — Dylan Thomas

Starry-Night-Over-the-Rhone-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.”

“What story?”

“When you were little.”




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.”

dc3-airIt’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.




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
after breakfast.

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.




San-Jacinto-Hotel-“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.



Second Wish

What it’s like to adopt a child



Two of my favorite disks for bedtime music: Dedicated to the one I love (Linda Ronstadt) and Sleep, Baby, Sleep (Nicolette Larson).

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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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara S. January 10, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Beautiful and dreamy! No stories of my own that I remember – none that match these, anyway.


Wolf Pascoe January 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Close your eyes and they’ll come, Cobweb.


BigLittleWolf January 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm

What a tender and gorgeous painting of childhood. I, too, recall those shadows passing on the walls. How everything we could conjure held possibility. Thank you for bringing me back to that place, along with Nick.


Wolf Pascoe January 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm

Conjure, yes.


Kristen @ Motherese January 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Gorgeous. Sweet dreams to both of you.


Wolf Pascoe January 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm

And to you, Peaseblossom.


Jim Parkevich January 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm

In a galaxy far, far away…In a time both past and present.. My paternal grand parents..immigrants both. And the 22 grandchildren they raised on their little piece of heaven in Northern Indiana.. My middle brother and I were thrilled to be there after a long train ride from central Ohio..
The property, our own private island…surrounded on three sides by the Wabash River..
At night, the Wabash River played it’s own lullaby..bubbling and rolling over the native limestone just under the surface. Passenger trains, long gone, rumbled outside the window just 60 yards away..looking out our bedroom window..you could see many travelers silhouetted in the hundreds of windows racing by.
In the morning we could hear “Baba” (grand mother) causing a ruckess in the chicken coup, gathering up eggs for breakfast. The rooster would be crowing out his consternation.
As I mentioned before, I am over 60..I still go there as often as possible. I park my little suv on the bank, overlooking the river and dream the sweetest of dreams…I am home


Wolf Pascoe January 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Oh, so, so beautiful, Jim. I never knew my grandparents. The farm you describe–was it a farm?–was something I saw only in books. Try this on:

Oh! the old swimmin’-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc’t ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin’ out as we left Paradise;

— James Whitcomb Riley


pamela January 10, 2012 at 9:57 pm

This really took me back to my own bedroom when I was little. If I couldn’t sleep, I would plot out how I was going to take down the robber that might crawl in through the window. In the winter I would stand on my bed on tiptoe and pull myself up to the window ledge and look out at Orion, who was always just above the ice on the outside of the window. And like you, I would watch the shadows on the walls.


Wolf Pascoe January 11, 2012 at 1:16 am

I had no idea so many of us were looking outside at night. Well. We are stardust, after all.


Privilege of Parenting January 10, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I had a mini book of Child’s Garden of Verse, three tiny books held in a case that held them snugly. One of the illustrations was of children by a sun dial in the moonlight, the sister in her nightgown, the younger brother holding his teddy bear by one arm. I gazed and gazed at the drawing, wishing to be with them, in their life, in their time, in their magic and mystery. One day I outgrew that book and it was gone, put away with other childish things. And while I’ve searched and searched for that exact edition, that numinous illustration I have never again laid my eyes upon it. Your post, however, captured the feeling… perhaps that’s why I so adore The Leaf Men even though I only came to know it as a parent.

Soon the night blooming jasmine will waft in the night air. Sweet dreams.


Wolf Pascoe January 11, 2012 at 1:24 am

Oh, those books. Such a joy it was to see them again with Nick. Now he’s nine, he doesn’t want to see “baby books” with pictures, but wants to hear stories of heros and dragons.


Jim Parkevich January 11, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Wolf, of course you know your grand parents. You are part of them as they provided the star dust that brought you into the world. I would bet that if you talked to family members, they could tell you stories that would rock your world.
If not too late, please try to find out, for Nick’s sake, but more importantly for your sake. We all need to be grounded in the past of our families. When we know the facts, we allow ourselves to answer questions about who we are as individuals and why we do the things we do.
My entire family (elders) hailed from the country of Macedonia. My cousin Diane often reminds me lovingly…we were born in America, but lived in a foreign country. The language, food , music, cultural trappings, have provided a view of the world far different from average Americans. We were and still are “huggers” and sloppy/happy with kisses. We, the next generation still enjoy all these parts of our “ethnic” past. All my cousins, my brothers and I are as close as brothers and sisters.
For Nick and yourself, find pictures, get stories..write and save as much information as possible. Nick is only adopted…he is a part of you and Nora..the same as if he came from your bodies. Build a scrap book so Nick will truly know who he is and the history that brought him to where he is.
Jim ( Dimitri, my Christened name)


Wolf Pascoe January 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Jim–don’t know if you’ve seen this three-part post: All my relations


Jim Parkevich January 12, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Read and reread your post: All my relations………………..I have come to acknowledge that this thirst for history of our lives is more a European attitude.
Even my ex-wife never got to know her own first cousins. And she never cared.
Anyway..I will read again your stories and try to keep the green eyed monster of envy in check.
In 1905, my paternal grandfather “dedo” was ten years old, on the mountain outside his village. He was helping his father to make charcoal, which they used for heat and cooking..Soldiers rode up, they tied the men together shoulder to shoulder. It was intended to include the children, but several soldiers argued that the children be spared. And so my dedo and his friends were taken away in the dark. The village men, with no weapons, were hacked to death by the soldiers. That was the last nite my grandfather ever saw his father.
Dedo lived in his village till age 20, before his first of several trips between
Macedonia and the United States. In those years, Dedo learned the family lineage back 8 generations. But with his great heart, he could never talk about his father and that history without breaking down in tears, even as he turned past 90. I am working with cousins to gather as much of the “old stories” as possible. We are doing as your family has done already..connecting our past to the future for children and grandchildren…Peace to you and your family


Wolf Pascoe January 12, 2012 at 11:48 pm


This story is so heartbreaking, more so as the loss echoes my own. Wonderful you are gathering information with your cousins.



Chopperpapa January 12, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Nicely done man, as usual.


Wolf Pascoe January 12, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Thanks, CP.


Sirena January 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Oh! That was SO sweet. It IS a very dreamy post. My dad used to hold me and my sister together in an old upolstered rocker and sing old songs to us at bedtime. We would ask him “Dad, did you get killed in the war?” and he would answer, “Yes, but not very badly”.


Wolf Pascoe January 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Nick once told his schoolmates I was in the Civil War. I think I may have gotten killed too!


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