Climbing the narrow ladder to the top bunk, I feel like a giant. Not a feeling I experience often, given my five foot frame. This is a maneuver that isn't attempted often. But today Darth Vader and Yoda are being peeled away in favor of cleaner wash cycle pastures.
On just about any other day this dreaded task is hastily performed as I race to the finish line that is the safety of the floor. But before that reward can be claimed, the Olympic event known as top sheet placement must be completed. My head will repeatedly slam into the low hanging ceiling fan which can no longer be turned on for fear of re-enacting Vic Morrow's horrible "Twilight Zone" demise. A certain amount of huffing, puffing and heavy sighing must transpire.
But this afternoon the top sheet wins and I'm exhausted. Surely I've earned a short lie down. So, flat on my back and inches from the ceiling, I hit the pause button on the daily chores program and take it all in for a moment.
The first thing I notice is the brown smudge directly overhead. What did I tell these kids about eating chocolate and snacks in bed? Oh...wait a minute...that's not chocolate. Oh my God...how long has it been there? It's in as petrified a state as I am right now. What is it about young boys and feces, anyway? Is that a question only I ask myself? Wow...I really need to clean the blades on that ceiling fan. How many inches of dust is that? One and a half? Two? Gotta change the bulb in that overhead light fixture.
The Mom Monkey Mind never quiets.
That's when I see it and my mind slows down. The tiny, hand painted ceramic sheep dangling from a small chain at the base of the fan. Hanging there for more than half a decade, it's lost a leg doing battle with flying objects but still it is there to help guide my little guy into slumber; a miniature nighttime companion that has seen him through babyhood to his current grade school days. I briefly consider taking it down, but I love it too much. It may stick out like a sore thumb in this Sci-fi meets dinosaur, Lego, Testosterone Zone, but who outgrows counting their sheep?
I wanted a bunk bed when I was a kid. The thought of having my own hide out a short climb away seemed so very "Swiss Family Robinson" and comforting at the same time. But my brother already had one, along with bed wetting issues and my mother wasn't about to play that top sheet game twice a week. Now I understand.
So as I lie here in the quiet midday solitude of the kid free hours, it's the perfect time to revert to my own long gone kid-ness. From up here I can see toys strewn on the floor, shelves filled with good books to read at leisure and dinosaur slides to project on a darkened bedtime ceiling. This tight space feels like a fort - no - a fortress against a harsh world and monsters that would otherwise hide under the bed. It is a safe cocoon, the stuff of childhood dreams and imagination. There's a stuffed animal posse up here to offer company and a stack of books to drift off to dreamland by. The "head board" is a window which provides a magical vantage point and I imagine my boy peering out of it plotting to stage a coup over the neighborhood.
I like it up here. In fact, it's worth considering making a weekly appointment to slow down on the top bunk while my six year old is none the wiser.
One last moment before descending back into the realm of responsibility, I wonder if my son has outgrown his old friend the sheep. Perhaps. But I decide that he'll stay for a little while longer.
And then he goes in mommy's room.