The recipe for a good night’s sleep starts with one sure-fire thing.
A long soak in a hot tub.
I had filled the bathtub as high as it would go with my daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake Bubble Bath, dug my luxurious terry cloth bath pillow out from hiding and grabbed the new issue of Real Simple. Ready, set, relax!
I stayed in the tub long enough to give myself a severe case of the “prunies” and read the entire magazine. The bubbles lasted the entire 75 minutes and I was now addicted to juvenile bath products. After slathering on a generous helping of lavender lotion (to induce sleep), I was ready for bed.
I happily crawled under the covers next to my quietly snoozing husband, brand-new remote control in hand (so I would not have to actually get out of the cozy bed to turn off the tv), put on the relaxation music channel for a few minutes before clicking the tv off and closing my drowsy lids.
Then the snoring starts.
Living with a snorer, you get used to the predictable rhythms and times of the worst snoring.
Usually, the first hour of sleep breeds the loudest snoring.
After that, it subsides for about an hour.
This is your window to fall asleep yourself before it starts back up again.
I thought I had timed everything perfectly, but tonight I was thrown a curveball and the second wave of cacophony decided to come early.
It was then that my mind started to wander, and as it did I found myself thinking of my grandparents and the fact that they had separate bedrooms.
As a child, I always thought that the reason for his or her own rooms was because my Grandfather was an early riser and my Grandmother was the exact opposite. When we stayed the night with them, he was the one who would get up before the sun and begin to prepare buttermilk pancakes for us as we enjoyed those coveted, warm moments tucked into our matching twin beds in the bedroom that was ours at their home. We would wake slowly to the sounds of him rustling in the kitchen and before you knew it, we were joining him and enjoying that tiny glass of buttermilk that he had set aside for us when he was mixing up the pancake batter. One by one, a perfect pancake was cooked on a griddle that was ready when our Grandpa flicked a drop of water on it and it sizzled. When all the pancakes were ready, only then would we three (my brother, my Grandpa and I) scoot into the booth in the corner of their kitchen and have our breakfast. It was a tradition.
We were careful not to make very much noise in the wee hours of the morning (between 8am and 2pm) so that we wouldn’t wake my Grandmother (whose bedroom was smartly located at the rear of the house). But oh, when that magic moment in the afternoon rolled around, and Grandpa was catching a nap in the den (he called it listening to the radio) in “his” chair with his glasses on and a newspaper folded open on his chest, I could hardly wait.
Her room was like a sanctuary.
She had two beautiful twin beds side by side (although she only slept in one), both adorned with pink silk down comforters (which matched the pale blue ones in our room) that you absolutely did not sit on at any time no matter what. The comforters were expertly folded at the foot of each bed so that if one were to get a chill during the night (or the day - whenever one chooses to sleep) all one had to do was pull gently upon the first edge and then the whole downy comforter would unfold on top of the wool blanket underneath it. Perfect.
Her boudoir was the “master bedroom” of the house, and behind two sets of slatted bi-fold doors lay the master bath. I was obsessed with this area. It had an exquisite vanity in the middle, with a private toilet on one side and a stand-up shower on the other. The vanity was the kind you could sit at and “put your face on”, as my Grandmother liked to say. She had numerous bottles of perfume and fascinating containers of powder and other strange, utterly feminine beauty products. Her bottle of Oil of Olay was always placed right next to the sink. I liked to imagine her sitting there every night after washing her face, applying the pink cream to her skin before retiring to her beautiful bed with her shades drawn to block out the light (because I am sure that it was near sunrise before she went to bed).
And there she would sleep, in her beautiful room, with her beautiful Lladro figurines gracing her bedside table.
And no snoring husband.
By the time she was turning in for the night, he was most likely beginning to wake, down the hall, in his own room. On schedule.
My Grandfather’s room was a great contradiction to my Grandmother’s. First of all, it was light. He had a huge window that faced east and flooded the room with natural light no matter what time of day. I cannot ever remember it being dark.
His furniture was clean and classic and neutral. Everything matched and was organized. Like you would imagine a fireman’s room to be. I cannot remember an abundance of knick-knacks, or anything feminine. It was a man’s room, and the only soft thing in it was the sheepskin rug that he kept next to his side of the double bed. I would take off my socks and curl my toes into its curly tendrils whenever I got the chance. It was completely opposite from my Grandmother’s feminine world down the hall.
It never occurred to me that their arrangement was odd. It seemed simple because they were self-defined “morning” people and “night” people. They couldn’t possibly share a room. But as I remember how different each of their spaces were, I can imagine that it was something much deeper than that. And probably none of my business. But I find it fascinating and alluring to ponder nonetheless.
I am a creature that has always required a fair amount of “alone time” to function properly. I never shared a room with anyone else until college. Since then, there has only been one brief time in my life when I had a space all to myself, and that was the last 6 months of college (and I can only count 2 of them because I was pregnant for 4). I too, am a night owl by nature. Always have been, always will be. I am required to function on a clock not to my choosing, but that is fine (as long as I get to sleep in once a week) and I expect that I will be this way for the rest of my life. I do not make excuses for this, as I believe that we humans are wired differently than each other for a reason. We compliment each other this way (the night owls and the early risers). And we can learn a lot from one another if we are willing to listen.
I like to think that I got this trait, characteristic, or “gene” from my Grandmother. She passed it along to my Dad too. We are night owls. We wake up when others are calling it a night. And although we’ve learned to appreciate a glorious sunrise in our lifetimes, we much prefer the sunset.
I married an early riser. So did my Dad. So did my Grandmother.
So far, after 35 years of marriage, my parents have managed to sleep in the same room (and the same bed). I am convinced that this has nothing to do with the fact that their biorhythms are different. It is because they both snore. They never have the problem of lying in bed next to their spouse mimicking the mating call of a coyote with a sore throat, as they grapple with a bad case of insomnia.
If my Grandparents were still alive, I could ask them why. Why do you really have separate rooms?
I am certain my Grandfather would say, “I am an early riser and your Grandmother is a night owl”.
My Grandmother would say, “He snores”.