With The Pre-Dawn Crickets

Some nights, I just don’t get a good night’s sleep.  I’ll doze off for small, fitful chunks of time, have an unsettled dream, wake up with the wisps of the dream already fading, a racing heartbeat, and a dose of heartburn, look at the clock with a groan, and then try again.  Usually in the 4 a.m. time frame I jolt awake, give up on trying any more, and decide I might as well start the day.

IMG_7166When that happens, as it unfortunately did this morning, I like to open the windows, let the cool morning air wash in, look out the windows at the street light and empty sidewalks, and listen to the crickets against the blanketing backdrop of silence.  4 a.m. may be an out-of-joint time for us humans, but it seems to be prime time for the crickets.

It’s odd, but we seem to have far more cricket sound in our new semi-urban house in German Village, with its tiny gardens and yards separating buildings that are only a few feet apart, than we ever had in our suburban home in the rolling, white-fenced countryside of New Albany.  Perhaps the cricket noise is just more noticeable in the pre-dawn quiet in this place and setting, where we expect to hear people walking past and the sounds of cars rattling down the brick-paved streets.

I’d always prefer a sound sleep, of course, but when it just doesn’t happen it makes no sense to fight the reality, tossing and turning and becoming snarled in twisted sheets and blankets.  Far better to get up, enjoy the skin-tingling gusts of cool air that waft through the opened windows, appreciate the darkness and solitude, and try to develop a zen-like attitude and reflect on the world during a time of great calm.  The cricket symphony in the background helps.

The Cricket In The Room

The other day I was walking through a parking garage when I heard a cricket.  I thought it was weird to hear a cricket in a downtown parking garage, and almost immediately thought how irritating the sound of a cricket is — and suddenly I remembered something I hadn’t thought about for years.

It was the summer of 1968.  Mom and Dad had loaded the five kids in the Webner clan into our Ford Country Squire station wagon to drive from Akron, Ohio to Fullerton, California, where Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Barbara and their kids lived in excitingly close proximity to Disneyland.  (To get a sense of what the trip was like, think of the Griswold clan making their cross country trek in the Family Truckster in National Lampoon’s Vacation.)

We had stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Dad wanted to do a little gambling and get blissfully away from his five brawling, bawling brats.  We were staying at a strip motel with a swimming pool.  With seven people in our family, there was no way we could stay in one room, so UJ, Cath and I were in our own room.

Of course, we stayed up much later than we should have — what self-respecting kid wouldn’t take advantage of that opportunity? — but when we finally decided to go to bed we heard the cricket.  It was chirping away, somewhere in our room.  At first we tried to go to sleep anyway.  It was just a tiny cricket, after all.  But we couldn’t sleep.  The chirping was like a rusty saw scraping against the brain.  Even though we were exhausted, with eyes that felt like they were coated with sand and brains that yearned to lapse into slumber, we couldn’t fall asleep with that insistent noise.  And the cricket seemed to taunt us.  It would stop chirping for a beat or two, and we would think that maybe it had stopped.  And then it would start up again.

Finally, giddy with fatigue at about 3 a.m., we decided we had to find that cricket and shut it up.  It was us, or him.  UJ and I scoured the room and finally found the cricket behind the dresser in the room.  We moved the heavy dresser, exposed the cricket . . . and then killed it with a shoe.  I am ashamed to admit that I was ridiculously happy to have killed a living creature, because I knew it would finally let me get some sleep.  And that is exactly what happened.