by Jennifer on March 19, 2009

The Unmade Bed, 1957 - Imogen Cunningham -

Mary Chapin Carpenter sings the words, half a beat behind me as I write them. And somehow sings ahead of me, too, which makes no kind of sense, just is.

It’s a good song – catchy and soulful at once.

I’m pretty sure we have a hit on our hands, not that Mary’s ever needed any help from me. She seems to know what she’s doing, so I usually just say no when she asks if I’ll write music with her,* because really, who has that kind of time?

And then, I hear whispering. Insistent, plaintive whispering.


I will my brain back into the groove of the song. Come on, Mary, keep singing.

“A thousand miles away-ay-ay,” she sings on.

There, that’s it. Just ignore the whispering.

I hear it again.

“Mommy, the computer’s not working.” Tap tap. “Mommy? Are you awake?”

I open my eyes, blink twice. The Girl comes into focus.

The day follows, and all that sunlight. Day whatever of spring break. I stretch, touch feet to floor.  I’m awake.

While coffee brews, I jot down the two lines I can still remember from the song. Grab at a few more lines that feel just out of reach. Are out of reach.

And over the next hour or maybe two, a lot of things happen. Breakfast. Kids, fighting. Me, yelling. Laundry. Loading the dishwasher. Kids, hugging me. Me, hugging back, so hard. (How lucky am I, are all of us, if we can do that?) The kids going outside to play.

Over the next hour or maybe two, I start to sift through the business of the day, stopping every now and then to try to remember how the song went.

But no matter how hard I try to hold on to it, the song fades away.

*Also in my dreams.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Alice March 20, 2009 at 4:20 am

Lovely. Take a quiet moment and hold “a thousand miles away” in your heart, let your mind go and maybe it will come to you. A hit for sure!

Mrs. Chili March 20, 2009 at 4:54 am

I love MCP, and I love having a song in my head that suits perfectly the mood or situation I’m in.

jenrantsraves March 20, 2009 at 5:10 am

Do you keep a journal next to your bed, in your nightstand? If not, you NEED to!
Have you written any songs?

Daryl March 20, 2009 at 6:04 am

Maybe Madonna has something right keeping her blackberry under her pillow.. you never know when you need to Tweet or write down a song lyric

Chris March 20, 2009 at 6:57 am

I could smell your coffee, see your morning, and hear the exchanges with your kids. So sad about Natasha Richardson. Your reminder is important. Lovely post.

Hilary March 20, 2009 at 7:38 am

Sounds to me like you awakened from a fine dream into a beautiful reality. I miss the little arms hugging back, but am so grateful for the big man arm hugs that they’ve become. Thanks for sharing your reveries.

Green Girl March 20, 2009 at 9:34 am

Yes, that’s exactly how it goes.

Jessica March 20, 2009 at 10:06 am

that is motherhood in a nutshell. But u r right. Gotta remember to love those kids.

Jenn @ Juggling Life March 20, 2009 at 10:16 am

It’s a conundrum–if you weren’t living life there’d be nothing to write about, but living life gets in the way of the writing.

Jenn, that’s exactly it.

the mama bird diaries March 20, 2009 at 10:17 am

It’s weird how the most vivid dreams rapidly fade away when real life intrudes.

Ree March 20, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I put Saving Grace by Everlast on infinite loop – stuck my earbuds in – and sat there, intently staring at a screen for an hour the other day.

What was on the screen that everyone who walked by thought I was so intently focused on?!? I have no idea. But that song? Got me through the rest of the day.

Pete March 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

All songs, dreams, music etc. never truly go away. The vibrations resonate forever even though we may not know how to replay them or are on a different frequency. Someday we will hear Queen Zenobia of Palmyra and all others from the past.

Margaret (Nanny Goats) March 21, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Dang. At least you get some productive inspiration from your dreams. I can breathe under water in my dreams, but when I wake up and I jump into the pool and suck in the water and choke and nearly die, it kind of isn’t the same.

Louise March 22, 2009 at 9:10 pm

No one ever wakes up creative dreams I have because I don’t have creative dreams. But I’ve heard that noise in the middle of the night. Or just breathing. Just breathing wakes me up. If they can stand there for who-knows-how-long and be OK, why can’t they be OK in bed??? So anyway, my point is, I do not get awakened from anything special and I grasp at those straws of sleep. How much more would I grasp if there was more reason to stay there.

flutter March 23, 2009 at 10:47 pm

this is so beautiful

Merisi March 24, 2009 at 10:04 am

Inspiration visits us on her terms.
Beautiful memoir.

Congratulations on your spot on David McMahon’s Post of the Day Award! 🙂

anymommy March 24, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Dreams are so hard to hold. I continue to love your peaceful, wistful writing.

Sandi McBride March 24, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I’ve written novels in my sleep that fly off into neverneverland as soon as I open my eyes…I know what you’re coming from! Congrats on POTD nomination!

meredith March 24, 2009 at 6:25 pm

I have often thought the greatest ideas may come in dreams. Congrats on your POTD mention!

Janine March 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Your posts are so original! I love to read what you write…you so poetically carry us along on your journeys….but whatever mode of travel you choose or wherever you take us, we discover new things about you and ourselves! Congrats on your mention in POTD! Cheers!

JCK March 24, 2009 at 10:21 pm


Bruce March 25, 2009 at 3:08 pm

The blurry, foggy memories that fade in and out at the edge of sleep….we all have these, but seldom can remember enough to write them down.

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