A Late-Night Lipstick Story


(Owen and Sophie, taken December 28, 2010)

Tonight James was fussy. Really fussy. Cried, off and on, for hours fussy. And then Sophie called for me. She was supposed to be sleeping. She claimed she couldn’t. So I went up, all the while shushing and bouncing James.

She asked for me to crawl in bed with her (normally, I don’t). She asked for a story (she already had two, earlier). But I caved. I put James on one side of her (guarded from falling off by the bed rail) and I positioned myself on the other side of her. She wanted the lipstick story.

This is a story my mom recently told her and it involves me, when I was a little girl. It’s a simple story. But she loves it.

Me: “Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I was a little girl—not much older than you—Nini, my mom, told me it was time for me to take a nap. But I didn’t want to take a nap.”

Sophie: “Why?”

Me: “Because I was having too much fun playing. Just like sometimes you don’t like to take a nap.”

Sophie: “Yeah.”

Me: “So Nini said that I could take a nap in her bed. After my nap, Nini came to get me. And guess what she saw?”

Sophie (hands over mouth): “What?”

Me: “Lipstick. All over my mouth. And cheeks. And chin. And forehead. I found it on Nini’s bedside table.”

Sophie: (laughs).

Me: “So Nini got me up, washed off my face, gave me a snack and played with me.”

Sophie: “What did you play? Did you draw?”

Me: “I bet we did!”

Sophie: “Again!”

Me: “Time for bed.”

I find much joy in crawling into bed with Sophie and whispering a late-night story into her ear. We bury ourselves under the quilt my mom made. Her pink room looks so soft with the nightlight lit and her stars filling her ceiling. Often, her bedtime CD is still playing, quietly. But this night was made even better by the fact that it also calmed James. He loved it. He rubbed his hand across the netting of Sophie’s bed rail. He chewed Sophie’s blanket. He stared at Sophie’s face. This may not seem like much, but after three-plus hours of trying everything to calm a fussy baby, it was much, and everything and more.

Thinking back, though, it’s a trick I use often, when one of the boys are fussy. I put them next to Sophie, on a pillow, under a blanket. Sometimes in her bed. Sometimes on the window seat. Sometimes on a quilt on the floor. Maybe it’s because I’ve put them in a new environment. I like to think the closeness of their sister, though, has a lot to do with it, too.

So tonight, I was doubly blessed. I had my late-night story session with Sophie and, because of that, a calm James. And really, I have Sophie to thank for this—even if it was past her bedtime. Even if she should have been sleeping. Even if I did sigh, heavily, when she first called me name.

Like most things with children, though, in the end, I’m glad she did.

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.” —Vincent Van Gogh