40 Winks

by Dylan Tomine
Kids' Fall 2006

Our two-year old has not been sleeping. Consequently, her mother has not been sleeping, and I have not been sleeping. Maybe it’s the long, unseasonably warm spell we’re having, with the resulting drip-drip of meltwater off the eaves. Or maybe it’s the long-silent river behind the cabin now filling the valley with rising decibels. Or it might be the surprising sun arcing across the sky and sneaking through the blinds in place of the usual soothing, flat gray of winter in the Northwest. Whatever the cause, Skyla is not sleeping. We have become a grumpy family.

After days of tiptoeing around the house during naptime, extended story- telling and hundreds of rounds of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” we finally give up on naps altogether. Might as well ski. I strap her into the pack, pull her up onto my shoulders, clip in and go. The hard crust of morning is just giving way to the brilliantly warm sun, and my skis make a granular crunching sound on snow the texture of kosher salt. It’s going to be a bit sticky today.

Kick and grind. I focus on maximum traction, trying not to slip out on the push-off, trying to find a little glide in there somewhere. This is not easy with a living, moving, 30-pound weight on my back. The usually chattering, inquisitive bundle of energy has, for reasons unknown, stopped her near constant stream of “whys?” and “how comes?”

“Sweetie,” I ask, “Why aren’t you saying anything?"

“Because we’re skiing, Daddy,” she whispers.

She says it with such emphasis, such reverence, it somehow makes sense. Mostly I’m just happy she’s happy. A couple miles out, and we’re making slow, if steady, progress. I know if I cut back across the meadow here, I can make it home at a reasonable time for lunch and another fruitless nap attempt. The warming snow is more than a little sticky now, and my back hurts. It’s clearly time to head in. Going down a long, smooth hillside, I crouch to keep my center of gravity low, and Skyla hugs tight against my neck. We laugh together when our run grinds to a halt short of the bottom. Did I mention it was sticky?

Kick and grind. Kick and grind. The rhythm is steady and I’m slipping out less, but still, there’s not much glide or grace to the process. Fatigue is setting in. Knowing we’re almost done, I push harder and pick up the pace. Sweat drips down my neck. Suddenly, I am aware of a strange noise. A slow, quiet rasp of deep, relaxed breathing comes over my left shoulder. She is sleeping. Sleeping!

Sleeping, unfortunately at a back-cramping, 45-degree angle to the left, her weight pulling me off balance and torturing my back. Almost there. I can see the line of trees where we started, and still, the steady breathing of deep sleep floats over my shoulder like sweet music. My back is going numb from the strain. As I intersect the tracks we made going out, I realize what needs to be done. There’s really no choice. I turn and step into the grooves, pointing my skis away from the timely lunch, the fruitless nap attempt, and most urgently, away from relief for my back. All that can wait. I will focus on each kick, willing a little glide into every step, trying to keep a steady rhythm as we head back into the woods. And she will sleep.

About the Author

Dylan Tomine lives with his family in the woods of Washington state. When he’s not fishing, he’s hard at work trying to become a better skier, father and sleeper, not necessarily in that order.