…while the whole wide world is fast asleep…”
For most people, these melancholy and introspective lyrics to this song, are closely identified with crooners and ballads from another time. And while my personal preference leans more toward the 1990 Carly Simon rendering, I relate to these words, not in the painful mourning for lost love, but rather in terms of alone-time. That precious window of time during which the rest of the world slumbers and I alone own the night.
Having complied with familial obligations and societal demands during daytime hours, I anxiously look forward to the solitude that the “wee small hours of the morning” provides, when I am finally free to engage in the ritual observance of solitude. This is my time. Time alone with my thoughts while the rest of the world is fast asleep and not intruding on my constant inner creative dialog. I am completely detached from the intrusion of other voices and personalities.
As a writer, I guard these hours ferociously. They are as necessary to me as the air that I breathe. This particular propensity of mine began in early childhood. Sleep has never been a priority, and I challenged my parents’ ironclad early-to-bed rules at every opportunity. It didn’t help that my birthplace order positioned me at the younger end of three older siblings, teenagers who always seemed to be actively engaged in doing their homework just as I was sent off to bed. Frequently, curiosity got the best of me, and sleep was virtually impossible with my sister and brothers reading from textbooks like “Prose and Poetry”, and acting out classics like “Macbeth”, “The Scarlet Letter”, and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”. Who could fall asleep with such visions and images having been planted in their imagination? It wasn’t long before I invented (so I thought at the time…I was 8 OK?) the old “reading with the flashlight under the covers after everyone else in the house was asleep” trick. Needless to say, my parents confiscated many a flashlight and batteries out of sheer frustration. Their disciplines were occasionally successful as long as I was under their roof, but night time still remains the right time for me.
The 3:00 a.m. View From My Desk
When my children were young, I often heard them tell their friends that they couldn’t fall asleep without the sound of typing in the next room. In those days, the humming/clicking of my IBM Correcting Selectric routinely was the white noise sound that lulled them into slumber.
My life-long romance with the written word and decades of being defined by motherhood are the two things in life that matter the most to me, and the things I have made gargantuan efforts to protect. Like many other women of my generation, I have grappled with the societally-imposed patriarchal injunction: art vs. personal fulfillment. I have struggled to hold onto the intoxicating rapture of writing while trying to balance the practical necessities of parenthood and family life. And, from time to time, I have bitterly acquiesced in my own obstruction for lack of a better solution. But today, I am as comfortable as one can be in the realization that my children are exceptional and successful in their own right and reflect the best of me, and my artistic potential is limitless.