During the summer of 1995, the season before my senior year of high school, my mother Gloria, younger sister Jenny and I embarked on a two-week long road trip in mom’s spanking new Geo Metro (the white, bullet-shaped, manual transmission vehicle that later became known as “The Egg”). The Egg enjoyed relatively solid gas mileage, a reflection of Gloria’s commitment to stretching the one-income budget of a RN with two teenage daughters as far as it could go. In these heady days before Mapquest and Google Earth, I set up our collegiate campus tour itinerary with little more than then help of a road atlas and a Red Roof Inn location directory. We three women packed The Egg as full of snacks and luggage as we could and hit the open road.
On a quest to find the institution of higher learning that I planned to call home for the next four years, our stops included many exciting places Jenny and I had either never been, or couldn’t recall: my younger sister’s birthplace in Hopewell, Virginia, sections of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and of course the grand dames of Northeastern cultural ideology, Boston and New York. Many hours of traveling music were audited, adventurous meals were consumed and winding, digressive conversations were enjoyed.
But a lesser known piece of family historical data is that there was one state we planned to visit, yet did not – Maine. Though my sibling and I were dying to check out some of the area’s plentiful liberal arts colleges, and despite a lifelong devotion to seafood, we cut our trip short by three days to return to Chicago that much faster. At the time, Jenny and I offered an unbearable absence from our then-boyfriends as the reason for the abbreviated journey, but the truth was much darker and more potentially damaging to our mother’s ego: we simply could not endure another night of her epic snoring.
Yes it’s true, Gloria was a storied log sawer, producing the kind of deep throated, rumbling commotion that my old Italian grandmother proclaimed would “wake the dead.” I have never been ever to prove this scientifically, but have hypothesized that our mother’s three to four pack a day smoking habit was not an asset in this regard (nor many others). The weirdest part was, despite a long career as a health professional, Gloria expressed little concern about her snoring, as it pertained to her own health or the mental faculties of those around her. Hell her estranged husband, our father Gregg, was nearly as bad. Both deep, sound sleepers, Gregg’s multiple broken noses as a young boy growing up on the baseball diamond, and Gloria’s fondness for smoky treats left Jenny and I pleased that our shared bedroom was far away from their loud, labored breathing.
But within the confines of a shared motel room, there is nowhere to hide. With a mixture of fondness and misery, I recall Jenny and I trying to bed down in hotel bathrooms, The Egg and when all attempts a peaceful rest failed, hatching semi-serious murder plots in the pre-dawn hours. Ultimately, after 11 straight nights of piss poor rest, we begged Gloria to drive us back home to the comforting land of separate bedroom doors. She acquiesced but it took her weeks to forgive our “selfishness,” longer before she could mention the trip to sympathetic friends without watery eyes
As an adult, and in part a response to this hellaciously under-rested excursion, I vowed to find myself a partner who neither a) smoked nor b) snored.
What is that they say about the best of intentions? I’ll have to consult with Dr. Freud on this one but for whatever reason, nearly every single one of my companions has been a chain smoker with a penchant for shaking the earth with nocturnal rumblings.
That’s no different with my current, and if all goes to plan, final squeeze, the hilarious, wonderful, infuriating, and idiosyncratic JC. The recent turn in Chicago weather toward the bitterly cold has left a thirst in the air that no humidifier seems to quench (we tried), bringing out my smoking lover’s most disruptive sleeping behaviors.
But unlike my teen years, I cannot run to the bathroom with a quilt, nor sleep in the car (we don’t have one) and even if I thought I could get away with the crime and the idea is sometimes tempting, I can’t kill JC. I love and need him too much.
So instead my small studio apartment is awash in accoutrements procured by my beloved in an attempt to restore nighttime harmony to our space: ear plugs, nose guards, mouth guards, breathing strips, headphones.
I couldn’t get away from my mother fast enough but as I hear my own repetitive, quiet and patient pleadings with JC to “Honey, please turn over,” followed by the whispered and sincere “I’m sorry baby, I love you,” I realize we have weapons in our arsenal one doesn’t normally associate with battle: commitment, self-awareness and unconditional affection.