Our family’s sleeping arrangement has generally left everyone tired. In our hundred-year-old storey-and-a-half bungalow, two bedrooms are nestled in the joists of the house reachable by a steep set of fir-topped stairs. Over the course of three pregnancies, I cursed these stairs as I traversed the narrow treads to the washroom in the middle of the night.
By that time, I was also generally cursing the children as one or two and later even all three made the short trek from their shared room to our bed. Over time, my husband Mat and I tired of sleeping at the edges of our double bed, rail straight, trying to escape the small elbows and feet, so we bought a foam king-sized mattress that fit into our room. Literally. It was a wall- to-wall bed leaving no one at risk of falling off the edge. However, after a time we changed our minds again. Even with a king-size, our blankets were incrementally removed from our bodies by rolling children and we realized that no matter how much room we had, our warm bodies were nectar feeding their hunger for touch. We would wake up with our cheeks pressed against the wall, a child’s drool-encrusted cheek stuck to our back and a yawning canyon space in the centre.
In a fit inspired by a sleep-deprived brain, Mat took a serrated bread knife to the thick foam mattress and sawed it back down to the size of a double. Next to the bed we put kids’-sized mats as a concession, “If you must come in, you may sleep on the floor.” They grumbled at our instructions, but the sleep solution worked until one night Mat and I stayed up late. We had gone to a show, drank wine and by 2 a.m., we fell into bed and each other.
After I had caught my breath, I laughed, ‘How long did that take?”
I checked my new pedometer’s timer, which all day I had repeatedly reported was “super handy,” and read out the minutes and seconds.
“That is so, so not sexy,” he groaned, forgetting that we had both lost the need to be long ago.
A small, high voice from the floor cut through our cocoon of blankets. “Daddy?” we froze. “Did you say a bad word?” If she had heard him say “sexy,” what else had she heard?
Shaking with silent laughter and twinges of horror, we resolved that night that it was time to get ourselves our own room.
So Mat and I moved. We moved to the basement leaving our scent and our bed, we left our pillows and side tables and claimed the terribly uncomfortable pull-out meant for (I now realize) one’s most hated relatives. The three kids populated the bed we had abandoned sleeping horizontally and, for a month, we slept undisturbed except for the poor-quality pullout.
In time, we bought a bed, a mattress, and closet system. Our clothes moved downstairs and I managed to steal a pillow back from the kids so that when I lay back in the dark, quiet and cool of the basement, I fell asleep quickly and slept until morning without waking once.
Excerpted from: Halton, Carissa. “Privacy Found in the Basement” from Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood. Gutteridge Books, September 2018. p 139-145.