Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Child's Play

Olivia came into our room at 3:30 a.m.

I was having one of those sleeps where as you start to wake up you think,"Oh, I am sleeping so well." Pulling yourself out of it is like pulling boots out of quicksand. I blinked bleary eyes and there was Olivia. I could see her outline in the dimness of the room. I could hear her too; she was already talking.

"The door in my room keeps banging and banging," she said in her regular voice, as if it were 3:30 in the afternoon and not pitch black outside. "Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. It just goes on and on and on."

"Well, shut the pingtai door," I croaked. "It's just the wind."

"O-kay," she said, huffing back out of the room. I rolled over and tried to find my way back into that warm pouch of sleep, but it was too late. In her crib, Sophie squawked and I hauled myself up to get her.

Back in bed, I closed my eyes, only to jump awake the next moment when a tremendous crack and boom rattled the windowpains. It took me a moment to get my bearings, convince myself it wasn't an earthquake. It sounded like someone had axed open the sky and dropped a bowling ball the size of a double-decker bus on our roof.

I lay still, wondering if the noise had woken any of the children. Sophie was curled up next to me, her breathing soft and even. The room next door was quiet.

Thunder crackled across the sky; lightning lit up the white walls of our room.

I lay there, listening, and the rain began. Sheets of rain. No pitter-patter, no distinguishing rhythm, just a blur of quiet noise. A rush.

It was comfortable. I almost slipped back into sleep.

But then I remembered the windows were open on the pingtai, so I hauled myself up once again and stumbled into the kids' room.

I saw Olivia blinking from her pillow at me. "Mom," she said in a raspy whisper.

I sat down on the bed and leaned over her, petting the hair out of her eyes. "Did the thunder scare you?"

She stared at me. "What?"

"That big noise, the thunder, did it scare you?"

"That wasn't thunder," she said. "Those were firecrackers."

"No, honey, that was thunder."

"Na-uh! Those were firecrackers."

I had to laugh to myself, even if it was 3:30 in the morning, which is not the time for any sane person to have a sense of humor. (Believe me, if you start laughing about anything at 3:30 in the morning, you'll never get back to sleep!)

Only a child born and raised in China could mistake a huge clap of thunder for firecrackers. This daughter of mine had slept through seven Tianjin-style Chinese New Years. Next to that, a little thunder and lightning was, well, child's play.


  1. I had her for her first Chinese New Year- and had to bundle her up and put her to bed in a padded bathtub, the bathroom being the most interior and therefor quietest room, because the firecrackers scared her so much. That was a time I will never forget. I'm glad she's gotten over her fear of firecrackers!

  2. Wow, Alison, thanks for reminding me about that! Such a fun memory. I'll tell Olivia. :)