Last week was rough around here. It was just a head cold that we passed around, but it really knocked us flat. We snuffed and groaned and moaned during the day, and at night we played musical beds and couches so the coughing would only disturb the person plagued by it.
By Wednesday, the doctor decided I was no longer contagious and I had mostly stopped coughing, but my ears were completely clogged. I decided on this night I was safe to bunk with Alyssa without disturbing her or giving her the crud.
I had spent the previous two nights attempting to sleep sitting upright on the couch because every time I laid my head down my nose closed off solid. On this night, all nasal-sprayed up, I couldn’t wait to stretch out on that soft mattress and burrow down into the covers.
As soon as my head hit the pillow, my legs began to tingle and my eyelids began to droop. When I was in that very happy place somewhere between daylight and dreamland, and I couldn’t hold my eyes open a second longer, Alyssa sat up in the bed with a start and yelled, “Mommy! Bush!”
I sat up too, it was involuntary. My heart was pounding hard in my chest.
Alyssa never calls me mommy anymore. Something was wrong. But, I thought she said bush.
With my ears being stopped up the last few days, I have heard several things that weren’t quite as they seemed. It has been frustrating for everyone.
For instance, when Alyssa told me she liked Coach Keith, her softball coach, I praised her for keeping an open mind to new foods, because I was sure she said she liked goat cheese.
So, I wasn’t entirely sure she said bush. Since the kids are getting tired of me saying “huh” all the time, I quickly started going through the alphabet. Cush, dush, fush, gush, hush, jush.… Surely she didn’t say bush.
“What did you say?” I finally asked.
“Bush! I have to get it for tomorrow morning! I can’t forget the bush! I have to take it to school! Where is it?”
Kush, lush, mush, nush, push, rush…
“What did you say you’re looking for?” I asked.
“Bush,” she said, “I have to get it ready for school.”
Sush, tush, vush, wush…
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, “I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you’re saying.”
“BUSH!” she yelled out, grinding her kneecap into my shins as she crawled overtop of my legs to get out of bed.
She went to her dresser in the dark, moved things around and picked up something. I strained my eyes, but couldn’t see what she had. But I can tell you, it did not look like a bush.
“Here it is,” she said with a sigh of relief, “I can’t forget this tomorrow. I’m going to lay it out so I’ll remember it for school.”
I gave up. “Okay,” I said, “lay it out so you don’t forget.”
Back over my shins she went. Crunch. Crack.
I couldn’t take it anymore. “Alyssa, tell me one more time what it was you got.”
I could tell she was growing weary with me. “Mommy,” she groaned, “I told you. BUSH!”
“Bush?” I asked, “I don’t understand. Why do you need a bush? Did you really say bush? Bush?!”
She didn’t answer right away, so I turned to her, waiting anxiously for an explanation.
But she was asleep.
“Alyssa,” I whisper-screamed, “Alyssa!” I jiggled her arm and leaned in close. She didn’t move, but took in a deep breath accompanied by a big snore-rattle that made me jump right out of my skin.
Legs no longer tingly and eyelids no longer droopy, I gave up and laid back down on my pillow.
Alyssa has talked in her sleep before but she’s never been a sleep conversationalist. Bush. Bush?
My curiosity got the best of me, and I picked up my phone, turned on the light, and swept it around the floor.
There was nothing there.
Maybe I made it all up in my head. Maybe it was the cold medicine. Maybe I was actually asleep and just thought I was awake. Maybe she hadn’t said anything at all.
I pinched my arm. Yes, I was pretty sure I was awake.
People say all kinds of crazy things when they’re talking in their sleep. If she was asleep. Maybe she was faking. Maybe it was an elaborate plan to get back at me for all the huh-ing I’d been doing all week.
“Alyssa,” I said, and waited.
I needed to know — what in the world did that girl say?
Brush, crush, drush, frush, grush…
I really should’ve stayed on the couch.