Princess Commado left her hamster, Pepper, in our room.
At 2:00 AM, we wake to the disconcerting sound of rodent teeth gnawing on metal. My brain is thick with sleep and I think Pepper is trying to escape; but she is only drinking from the metal arm of her water bottle. I am too foggy and heavy to get up and bring her back into Princess Commando's room- so I resolve to put up with the noises- the gnawing and the exercise wheel spinning. I have dreams of hamsters darting across the bed.
Then, in the still cloaked hours of the morning- a thunderstorm. It would have remained a rumble in my periphery if that little voice wasn't calling from the other room. It speaks with an animated clarity which my sleep fuddled brain interprets as a frantic call. I involuntarily bolt upright to respond.
"Hey, guys! Ya hear that lightning! Ya see those big lights?" It repeats again and again- louder and clearer each time.
Her little eyes are wide and sparkling- igniting with each lightning flash and thunderous punctuation. She isn't scared. She is thrilled. "Hear that lightning, Mama?"
"Thunder makes the sound, Baby. Lightning makes the flash. Are you scared?"
"No!" She answers quickly. But, then she ruminates. She knows there is an opportunity nestled in my question. It could lead to her favorite place in the world, Mommy and Daddy's bed. She twists her face in mock fright. "Oh, yes. I'm very scared. I sleep in Mommy's bed."
I scoop her up and curl around her under our covers thinking there are still a few more hours left to rest.
The hours are there- but not for rest.
Each achromatic flash enlivens her more. She shakes the sleep out of me with a recurrent question: Ya hear that lightning?
Then the thunder thins and the sky is dark again- morning is slowly creeping toward the first alarm. Her breath becomes heavy, followed soon by toddler snores. Finally, hopefully-forty minutes of rest.
But, no! It can't be! Another rumble. An industrial belch. An iron groan. Garbage trucks. Men's voices calling back and forth. Big eyes pop open on a little head. "Ha!" She exhales abruptly as if she hadn't ever fallen into a snoring slumber a minute earlier. "What's that?! Garbage trucks? Garbage trucks! I love garbage trucks! Do you like garbage trucks?"