Sunday, 5 June 2011

Night-time rituals

Night-time rituals – we all have them, yes? These days, for me at least, they involve showering and much tooth-cleaning. My challenge is to make my dentist speechless with delight at my sparkling gnashers and to avoid the digging and chipping at my defenceless canines, premolars and molars, thereby circumventing the accompanying monologue – for how can anyone have a dialogue with a mouthful of hand and tools? – of snarled orders to pay more attention to the backs, fronts, cutting surfaces of my teeth. In short, I would like to feel that my reluctant six-monthly dental appointments were more of a celebration of my oral hygiene and less a return to subservient and infantile acceptance of stern rebuke.

Further current rituals involve the application of creams and unguents to various areas of my body to firm, reduce, rejuvenate and otherwise turn back the years to that time of my life – long gone, now – when skin was dewy and elastic, firm and closely attached to bone and muscle. When I was a child I would never have envisaged such things. I remember my parents remarking on the nimbleness of my child’s fingers and wondering what they meant. Surely everyone could do what I could do? Fingers didn’t grow old, did they?
My childish rituals I recall now with something approaching amusement mixed with sympathy at my innocent trepidation.  Lights were never turned off on my journey to bed. I hated, feared the dark. Dark was my enemy – who knew what dwelt in the quiet shadows of the staircase ready to leap upon my helplessness? Once I had reached my bedroom there were procedures that demanded observation, for if I didn’t follow them I dreaded what might transpire.

First I had to make sure there was nothing – or nobody – hiding in the wardrobe. Bravely I approached and flung open the doors – nothing! Relief was followed swiftly by the need to ensure that there was nothing dangerous behind the curtains. Again, reprieve from menace and a chance to breathe more freely. Yet the worst was to come - I had still to check that no peril lurked beneath my bed; this was the worst threat for I had to lower myself to the floor to check the underside of the bedstead, which was just a few inches above the carpet.  I was aware that I was at my most vulnerable on all fours – after all, there might be spiders waiting to leap upon my vulnerable back. Finally, with a sigh of relief, I was reassured that I could now get into bed.

I followed such a routine for many a long night. How on earth I could have believed that any hazard hid within my small, safe room I cannot imagine. With some part of my mind I realised that I was being foolish. My parents, I knew, would never expose me to danger, but yet I had to fulfil the rituals before I could settle to sleep.

There were other rites, later, that I had to perform as I walked home from school but never any as rigorous as my night-time routine. 


  1. I had to look under my bed and in the closet before I went to bed too. It could have stemmed from fairy tales or movies I had watched on TV.

  2. I get into teeth brushing and face washing, but not into those various creams. I suppose I should, but....

    As a child, I went to sleep with a hall light on. After saying my prayers (with a parent present), my mother would often stand IN the hallway out of my view and sing some of her old favorite songs. One I still remember is "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree." It really was a nice good night routine.

  3. I think the line between childhood and adulthood blurs most intensely at night.

  4. That bit about the dentist was hilarious - they do like to scold us, as if we don't TRY to keep those teeth clean.

    I used to look under the bed too, and also I would launch into bed from a few feet back in case some invisible creature with long arms tried to grab my foot.

  5. The imagination of childhood is strong, it creates creatures and terrors that, while foolish to adults, are very real in the mind of child. But that same imagination creates wonders beyond belief. Too bad so many of us forget how to use this lovely gift as we age.

  6. Oooh you started me remembering those fears of the dark I had as a child! Was darkness really so much more sinister then? My sister and I could get ourselves into shrieking balls of terror by the unseen things we were sure were lurking. :-)

    Then later rituals included a 'counting' thing, footsteps, railings on a building, all sorts.

    The best rituals are the ones like yours that are at least helpfull and health full!

    Good post, now I just have to shake these feelings before bedtime! lol

  7. @Belle - I don't know where my fears stemmed from. Primeval instincts, maybe.
    @Mary - what a soothing bedtime ritual. How safe and secure you must have felt, drifting off to sleep to the sound of your mother's singing.
    @KLo - you are so right.
    @Melissa - did you develop into a fine long jumper;-)?
    @Squirrel Queen - you're right. Sophistication and common sense too often squash imagination.
    @Susannah - it's comforting to know that I'm not alone in what I used to fear was my 'oddness' but realise now is a part of growing up.

  8. Delightful to read, and so true. I couldn't let my foot hang out of the bed for years for fear of what was going to get it! :o)

  9. Mummy said she always checked under the bed and in the wardrobe before tucking in. Then she used to lay as flat and still as she could under the covers so nobody knew she was there. She says she wished Monsters Inc. had been around in her day as it would have been a great way to explain the scarey things. Good job she isn't so jumpy now with me and Simba leaping on the bed in the middle of the night hee he :)xx

  10. You've reminded me of my own childhood rituals - checking the wardrobe for monsters; making sure all my teddies were sat upright at the end of my bed; brushing my teeth!

    You did make me laugh with the dentist bit. I'm very like you in that respect, and proud that at nearly 39 years of age I haven't had one filling.

    Ellie Garratt

  11. I too feared the creatures int he dark. Would cover up even in summer so nothing/no one would grab my feet.
    My dental appointment is Wed. Ugh

  12. @Deborah - LOL!! I don't let my feet hang out of bed now, but that's because I get cramp.
    @Princess Jasmine - it used to be so nice to be tucked in - a lovely safe feeling. You don't get that with duvets. It's so good to have cats (and dogs)on the bed - even in it, sometimes.
    @Ellie - my middle daughter thanked me the other day for the good genes we gave her. The dentist told her she had fantastic teeth. She's the same age as you.

  13. @Linda - oops, you snuck in when I wasn't looking. Good luck for Wednesday:-)

  14. My evening ritual is brushing teeth clean my face and put some night cream on. Nothing special because only a facelifting would help, lol !
    I still can't sleep in a completely dark room and my door must be a little open. Only in hotels or outside my home I close the door. But I was never afraid of anything.
    BTW the heat is gone for the moment and it rains, here too, but everybody welcomes the rain, we didn't have any for weeks and weeks everything is so dry and dusty !

  15. We all have our rituals and fears, indeed. I abhor small spaces, and eschew creams of any my bedtime ritual is easy...clean face and teeth, make sure door stays wide open, and - most importantly of all - immerse myself in whatever book I'm currently on. I haven't gone to sleep without reading in bed first for as far back as I can remember. Books banish all fears for me...even the really awful ones!

  16. Aha, this is the post I couldn't open, Janice. So now I got to read it, and everyone else's comments, too.
    I am like Lynette, I have to "read myself to sleep" every night, but when I was very young my imagination conjured up monsters in every corner, too. I think it's a sign of good things to come, when the imagination produces poetry, prose, music, science, art...
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel


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