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Sometimes Love is Only Sleeping

by Lynda Archard © 1999

Everyday someone visits our house needing a friendly ear to listen while they talk over yet another solvable problem. Sometimes, the telephone rings every few minutes, usually just as another child knocks on the door for one of our children. I love it but Tom endures our hectic lifestyle, it’s his excuse not to spend time with us anymore. He escapes to the luxury of a quiet bedroom with his portable TV each evening, allowing our once passionate love to transform into a tolerable friendship. Well, even our friendship wavers at times. Me? My relaxation is listening to my Monkee’s albums inbetween counselling everyone. How do we break the habit we have declined into?

A few months ago, Tom had taken a rare day off work. The children were at school and we had the house to ourselves. We wasted the day, idly pottering around, doing our own thing. Tom leaned back in the chair, threw the newspaper onto the kitchen table and swept his arms casually behind his head. “We should have a family trip to France, Mary. A day-trip to relax.” he said, after reading the special offer booking-form.

“The last time we went we promised to take the kids the next time. Remember? Dare we take them too? They’re not really old enough yet.” I couldn’t hide the caution in my voice and he didn’t notice anyway.

“Yes, of course. I said family trip.”

Tom had made his mind up. I kept quiet and thought back to our first trip six years ago, a romantic trip for two. We had asked a friend over to babysit and set off for France in the early hours of the morning. I had spent three days reassuring him that big boats don’t sink everyday. It was just after a major disaster and Tom had never been on a cross-channel ferry before. To say he was nervous is an understatement. And here we are, contemplating on taking the children too.

What are we doing? A couple of hours car ride to Dover for the day was enough to send me into a state of panic let alone going on a ferry with them. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend a whole day with Tom either. There will be no time to blink with young children. They are bound to want to see over the edge of the boat with me tugging at their jackets trying to stop them splashing over the edge!

The next few months passed quickly, our passports had arrived and it was time to go. The alarm rang at 3am and thirty minutes later the children were up and ready, eager to get to a country they had only heard us talk of with our fond memories of pleasures long gone.

We squeezed into the car inbetween bags of sandwiches and changes of warm clothes, in case it was going to be cold over there. A twist of the ignition key and we were off.

A few minutes into our journey our three children were snoring after the car had rocked them back to sleep.

“Ah, they look so cute curled up in the back seat.” I whispered.

“They are wearing their seat belts are they?” Tom was glaring with his usual serious expression.

“Shhhh, you’ll wake them. Of course they are.” I smiled, desperate to hide my apprehension of this so-called relaxing day.

We chatted quietly during our steady drive toward Dover. The time passed quickly as we enjoyed some rare time together before the children woke up. Tom thought the journey had not taken long. He looked at his watch, timing everything in his very particular manner. “Only an hour and a half. The roads are clear for a change. Good isn’t it?” he smiled and I, half-heartedly, nodded in agreement.

It was nice to see him look so relaxed. It made a lovely change from the recent events. Each evening he came home to a house full of loud children after his long working day. Their friends are always here to add to the excited greetings too. I know he is tired and needs rest when he walks in, but shouting at the children when they rush to greet him doesn’t make me want to ask him how his day was. We have a different routine now, we all give him the space he demanded, none of us talk to him for at least 30 minutes. When we do it is usually to ask him what TV program he wants us to watch before he goes to bed early and we get the TV remote control back. I love him dearly but that doesn’t mean I have to like him much. Perhaps today will bring us all a bit closer?

The car slowed as we pulled into the docks and Tom mumbled something about lanes, wondering aloud which was the correct one to get into. The place looked deserted and the quiet ‘swish’ of waves were all we could hear until a sleepy voice asked, “Are we in France yet?”

“No Sarah. The boat will be here soon. Sit still and tell me when you see it.” I replied in a hushed voice so I didn’t wake the other two. Leah and Joanne began to stir soon after, stretching their arms in the air, throwing fists in all directions.

“Watch it Leah,” Sarah screamed, “You nearly poked me in the eye.” “Sorry, Sarah. Is that our boat?” four-year-old Leah rubbed her eyes, unsure if she was still dreaming. Then, suddenly, she was wide awake. “It might be. We’re supposed to be leaving in an hour.” Said Tom, looking at his watch yet again.

“I can see it!” shouted Sarah. A hush fell on me when I saw her brain ticking over. “I’m not going on that!” She shouted, “It’s bigger than the boat in the park. What if it sinks?”

“It won’t sink!”

“Look at it! Ooo, this is so scary. I didn’t think it would be like that!” Sarah was the ten-year-old drama queen of our family. She over-reacted to everything, especially when she had an audience who had no option but to listen to her.

“You don’t have a choice now - unless you want us to go back home.” I said.

Tom laughed. He loved to wind them up. “If it sinks then you have to swim fast. Have you got your arm bands?”

I turned to the back of the car and started... “Sarah, the first time we went......”

“Don’t say a word.” pleaded Tom, remembering his own fears.

I smirked. “If daddy goes missing he will be near the life-boats.”

A young man appeared and ushered us into one of the many lanes before walking over to give us a ticket to place in the car window. Then the uniformed man headed away, disappearing behind a small grey hut as fast as he had first appeared.

It was quite eerie at this time of the morning and it was nice to see other cars forming lines behind and beside us. I hate getting to places too early, it always ensures a long wait, tired children and the inevitable boredom. Or frustrated arguments caused by stretching limbs in a confined space!

At 6am the announcement was made to board the ferry. The girls leaned forward stretching their hands as far as they could while Tom was driving up the ramp, each desperate to say their fingers got on to the ferry first.

“Sit back!” he snapped. “and put your seatbelts back on until I tell you that you can take them off.”

I was too tired to join the debate at this time of the morning. The freezing mist when the sun comes up is enough for me to breakout in a real sudden tantrum. I thought I did well to sit quietly and pretend that all was well.

Soon we were parked in the lower deck, with no windows. I couldn’t wait to get up onto the open decks. I’m not claustrophobic but it wasn’t nice down there with the car fumes. People clambered to get their sandwiches and bags from the boot of their cars while others coughed to the smell of petrol.

The first stop was the duty free shop. It opened after we had sailed out of English jurisdiction. I’m not sure how far, but it meant I could save money on some cigarettes and stock up on vodka for next Christmas. A bottle from the last trip is still in the cupboard somewhere. When do I get a chance to drink? I’ve never liked alcohol with the children about and they never stay in bed without coming downstairs for a drink of water or some other excuse not to sleep until it’s dark outside. Midsummer is a nightmare.

After we had explored the ship, we sat looking through the window of a restaurant with our sandwiches. The jagged coastline of Calais slowly came into view.

“Look!” Joanne jumped to her feet with a huge smile.

“That’s it. That’s France. Shall we go onto the upper deck to watch?” I asked.

“Yeah!” came the chorus of voices.

Tom already had his camera bags over his shoulder waiting to go. We were watching the coast when a waft of industrial fumes hit our noses.

“Pooh! What’s that disgusting smell?” asked Sarah, holding her nose indignantly.

“That’s the smell of the working day of a factory.” I laughed. “It won’t smell that bad on shore.”

An announcement from the Tanoy asked us to return to our car. We sat in the car waiting, in false light, for the doors to open. As natural daylight poured in at last, a sign outside said ‘Bonjour - Welcome to Calais.’ We couldn’t read most of the other signs but the universal waving of the attendant’s hands pointed the direction we should be travelling to the main roads.

“Dad, you’re driving on the wrong side of the road.” I was surprised that Joanne had known which side we drive on at home. All of them had grown up fast and learned things without us being aware. Time was disappearing so quickly. Were we growing old too, without noticing?

“It’s strange but you’ll get used to it. The first time we came we wasn’t sure which way to go around the roundabout. We just followed the other cars.” Tom laughed. I joined in and laughed with him, remembering that first visit once more.

We headed in the direction of Boulogne, to a picturesque cobbled street with good shops that we had found last time. It was an ideal place to take photographs.

Tom told the children, “You are going to love the sweet shop. And no laughing at people when they speak. Most of them speak English and they understand everything you say much better than you lot do.”

“Do they speak funny then, Dad?” asked Sarah.

Tom thought carefully before giving his answer. “No. I suppose they think we speak funny.”

“How do they speak then, Dad?”

Now was his chance to impress them. “Je mapelle Tom - that means, ‘my name is Tom.’”

“La belle petit chat - means, ‘the beautiful little cat.’” I laughed as I interrupted with the only useless phrase I had remembered from my school days.

After Tom had told them a few more French sentences and kept Leah guessing with silly questions such as ‘how does a French dog bark?’ we arrived in Boulogne. We parked and headed for the shopping trip, which everyone enjoyed with only the odd giggle, then headed for the beach.

“Lets build a sandcastle.” Tom wanted to play, but Sarah and Joanne were far to old for that now.

“I don’t think so, Dad. How old do you think we are?” asked Joanne, her nose in the air.

“You’re 6. Come on, don’t be boring.”

“I’m not 6! I’m 12!”

“Yeah? 12 already, well I never.” he returned a similar hint of sarcasm.

They reluctantly joined in and were soon all having fun while I sunbathed. It was good to see them enjoying time together. I was nostalgic to the point when I could have cried thinking about all those years wasted, arguing over silly things. Tears were beginning to well until I turned away and watched other families on the beach. All families have their problems, but I did’t expect Tom to distance himself when the children came along. He was always tired now. Tom had a quiet life before he met me and would have been quite happy to have never had visitors or seen anyone at all.

It was me who wanted an open house. My job in life was to help others, listen to their problems, help them out. It dawned on me, giving myself to everyone with a problem had caused our own problems. I had neglected Tom and blamed him for neglecting me. He hadn’t distanced himself. I was to blame.

When the castle was half built, Tom looked over at me. I was looking away and could see him from the corner of my eye. He whispered something to them and then made his way over to me. I pretended not to notice and toyed with the sand, picking it up, watching it run back through my fingers.

“The girls are okay. Do you want to walk?” he held his hand out for mine and I grabbed it before he could change his mind. I never knew what reaction he would give to my stroppy mood swings of late.

“If you like.” I was coy, as if he was a stranger.

“I enjoy your company and it’s a great day today. I’m glad it turned out sunny for you to sunbathe.”

“I’ve been thinking...”

Tom interrupted, “We need time on our own, without all these people taking over our lives. I’ll book a week off when we get back and take you somewhere special.”

“That’ll be lovely. But who’s going to have the kids for a week?” I shrugged.

“No excuses. Mum will have them.”

I gave a soft, hopeful, smile. His green eyes sparkled when he spoke. I could always tell if he meant what his words. The lines around his mouth are attractive and his face softens when he has that spark. His voice softens too. The deep voice is to show he is in control but the soft voice is always kept only for me.

Suddenly he looked attractive again and I fancied him and really wanted that break, to be selfish and have him all to myself in the way I knew he still wanted me. I knew he was reading my thoughts like he used to.

“I still fancy you like mad. I always will. It’s frustrating when I can never get near you.” He swept me into his arms and kissed me in a way I had only remembered from years ago.

“Ugh! Daddy’s kissing mummy! Daddy’s kissing mummy!” Leah sang.

We had not walked far and she was standing behind us pulling that funny disgusted face to accompany her chant. We fell about laughing and the children laughed at us all the way back to the car because we held hands.

“We are married you know.” Tom joked.

“Bed, when you all get home!” My authoritative tone had gone.

On the return trip, we talked about the future we had wanted and discussed ways to still achieve it. The children sleept again and we arrived home safely around 11pm. The children clambered up stairs with their bags half asleep and Tom and I fell, exhausted, onto the settee. We were alone again at last.

“I’ve had a great day, Mary. I do remember how good things were.” he reassured.

“I know, Tom. So do I.”

Tom wrapped his arm around my shoulder, squeezing gently with a loving embrace. “Are you glad we went? I know how apprehensive you was today.”

“Yeah. It’s great when you hug me properly.” I snuggled closer into his warm torso and looked him in the eyes. “I love you. And I quite like you today too.” I meant every word for the first time in ages. Then I recalled the words of a track from my Monkee’s album, sung by Mike Nesmith - ‘Sometimes love is only sleeping!”


Lyrics to the song that inspired this story

Love is only sleeping by The Monkees

Album: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

She looked at me,

And the emptiness in her eyes was cruel to see,

Then she turned away and said,

"Once I loved, but love is dead,"

And I whispered, "Sometimes love is only sleeping."

She said, "I cannot cry,"

"And I cannot give or feel or even try,"

And her voice was hard and cold,

Then her sweet young face looked old,

And I whispered, "Sometimes love is only sleeping."

Through the endless days and nights

She could not help but wrap herself in sorrow,

Through the endless days and nights

We waited for a shining new tomorrow,

Love was sleeping, sleeping.

She looked at me,

And her smiling tears feel warm and sweet and free,

And the moonlight kissed her eyes,

As it mingled with our sighs,

And she whispered, "Sometimes love is only sleeping,"

And she whispered, "Sometimes love is only sleeping,"

"Only sleeping,"

"Only sleeping,"

"Only sleeping,"

"Only sleeping,"

"Only sleeping."


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