We don’t have central air conditioning at my house. We don’t even have a window air conditioner. And up until the end of June we didn’t even have our swamp cooler operational. With temperatures reaching 100 degrees F. we were very warm in the house. Long after the sun sets, when the temperatures starts dropping off outside, inside the temperature remained in the 90’s. In the winter this phenomenon is a blessing; in the summer, a curse. The master bedroom is on the west side of the house and catches all the afternoon heat. A few nights ago I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling like I was suffocating, my bed wet with sweat. I went and stood in the dark on the porch in my underwear and looked at the stars and let the cool night air absorb my excess body heat. Night air never felt so pleasurable. But I couldn’t stand there all night and eventually had to return to the heat of my room.
The next day it was even warmer. Rather than suffer another long night in the dead heat of my room I decided to sleep out on the trampoline in the back yard. I grabbed my pillow and a sleeping bag and tried to sneak out the back door. But trying to sneak anything in my house is like a celebrity saying something stupid and hoping no one heard.
“What are you doing , Dad?” Story, my seven-year-old, had caught me.
His words alerted Glory, my nine-year-old. She came peering around the corner. “Are you sleeping outside?” she asked.
I was caught and denial was futile. I nodded and they both ran to get their pillows and blankets. There were no questions asked. Dad was sleeping on the trampoline and so they would too. Sleeping on the trampoline with the kids is a natural thing to do, but it doesn’t usually lead to a great night’s sleep. The main problem is that objects with any weight tend to roll to the center of the trampoline. We won’t be asleep long before we will all be lying in a heap in the middle.
Story is the first one outside with me. We get his blankets on the trampoline, but then he does a little dance when suddenly nature calls him. He wants the flashlight so he can go back inside to the bathroom. I direct him over to a dark corner of the yard where he can take care of business under the stars. It’s one of those great lessons a father can teach a son about how great it is to be a guy. He’s still young enough that his shorts come all the way down around his knees when he goes. I shine the flashlight on his white buns and yell, “Look, it’s a full moon!”
“Dad!” he yells, and then giggles.
Glory comes out a few moments later and I light the way for her with the bright beam of the LED flashlight. We got everyone arranged and then lay, only half covered, in the warm night breeze looking up at the stars. They can both recognize the big dipper and the star Betelgeuse (Beetle Juice). It isn’t long before they ask for a story and I am making up a Mr. Potato Head vs. the Potato Peeler story. Then my seven-year-old returns the favor and starts telling me a story, but he falls asleep before he is finished. Glory and I stay awake long enough to catch a whiff of a skunk carousing somewhere upwind.
It’s not long before I doze off and my nine-year-old is pushing on me in her sleep because I am nearly lying on both her and her brother due to the black hold affect at the center of the trampoline. I scoot as far away as I can and turn at an angle, but it doesn’t work. An hour later I am crowding in on them again.
Sometime in the night I had to get up to relieve myself. This is where the second problem of trampoline sleeping comes in. As I struggle out of my bag and to the edge of the trampoline the two kids start to bounce and almost catch air. Somehow they both sleep through this. They sleep bounce again as I get back in my bag.
I awake each hour to the breeze puffing in my face or because the trampoline, although stretchy, is not soft. Also I keep sliding into my kids. I watch the Big Dipper make its rotation around the North Star. At 4 a.m. I give it up and crawl off the trampoline to go to my bed in the house. I’m hoping it will be cooler by then. It isn’t. The room is still hot and stifling, but at least I won’t be sliding into my kids. Before I get into bed I hear little voices coming in the back door. These aren’t middle-of-the-night voices, but awake voices talking and giggling. I learn that our stray cat had joined them on the trampoline and tried to crawl into bed with Glory. The cat smelled a little like a skunk. With the cat’s arrival and my departure they had decided to come in too. They went off to their respective rooms and I sweated the next few hours in mine until dawn.
I finally got the stand for the swamp cooler built and with it pumping in the cool night air sleep comes a little easier. Like a character in a horror movie who is drawn to the old house on the hill even against his better judgment, for some unknowable reason I find myself wanting to try another night out on the trampoline. There must be a way I can make it work.