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In medias res

The Oddnivore and I are outside. It is an unexpectedly warm March evening in Indianapolis, and we are in shirt sleeves. I wield a shovel, digging a hole for a paving stone I imagine will look rather nice amidst a bed of flowers or a shrub I have yet to plant, I may never plant. And the Oddnivore plays near me, moving around me in that half-orbit kids learn when they want to be both near and away from their parents.

“Why do you have your window open, Mommy?” The Oddnivore looks up at my second story bedroom, which overlooks the backyard.

Oh…because Daddy and I like the fresh air. It’s good for the house, good for us, to have fresh air.

The Oddnivore considers. “One time when the neighbor’s dog barked, I heard it through the window.

“It came through your window into my room, and it scared me.”

Before

Many times I have woken from a dead sleep, jarred awake by something. I jerk upright, shake my husband, and implore him to help me identify the sound, assuring him that yes, this time I have heard something significant. I lie back down, wrapped in dark, awaiting and fearing the noise’s recurrence.

Then a thud vibrates through the wall.

“It’s just O., kicking the wall next to his bed. Go back to sleep.”

Are you sure?

“It’s just O.”

So we are trading, the Oddnivore and I, one night terror for another, a symbiosis of unexpected sound and fear. The fear of what your actions can do to me. The fear of what my actions can do to you.

Motherhood. Childhood. Somehow we are all the same when reduced to bare essence.

Other nights

I have long feared the nighttime, not really for the dark itself, but for the way darkness suppresses immediacy. This lack of immediacy is compounded further when I lock myself up for the night in the box that is my house. I cannot connect sound to sound maker as I wish to—sense is muffled by walls and then by black.

But tonight, the cool-warm night air (somehow air can be at once warm and cold) creeps forward, crawls in through the window I’ve optimistically nudged up four inches before crawling into bed, hoping somehow to lessen the black by letting it into the room with me.

And then I hear a bird chirp. The cord that connects me to the rest of the world is pulsing.

Chirp.

It is 10 p.m. How can this bird be awake? (I have always assumed that birds sleep, and sleep more prudently than I do, at more reasonable bedtimes.) And why am I so glad that it is, that it’s spoken up? When I wake up and go down to my yard tomorrow, I’ll likely discover it was the robin that has made her nest in the eaves 10 feet from my window—that I HATE—who is now helping me recast the night as friendly, as full of life.

As worth the risk of overhearing. Oddnivore, can you hear it?

Chirp. Chirp.

Dark, its own light.

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