Last summer, despite having just moved into our New York co-op, my partner Iordan and I bit the bullet and bought our tickets to Bulgaria. We had a nine-month old, and all of Iordan’s relatives and close friends were dying to see our son. Truthfully, I was looking forward to showing him off, time zones be damned.
Yoan had begun to sleep through the night at six months old but after we joined Iordan in Miami in July for a conference, our son’s sleep schedule got derailed.
So long to a blissful six hours of sleep per night. We were back to being bleary-eyed and grumpy. I looked like hell, and felt like it, too. The closer we got to leaving for Bulgaria, the more nervous I felt. To free up room in our suitcase, we left the white noise machine and night light at home. I’d sing to him instead: cheap and easy. On the first leg of our trip, he slept for barely an hour. Guilt hung like a pair of lead booties around my neck.
There was never a night without interruption in Sofia. Was it Yoan’s fault that his internal clock was telling him it was 2 PM not 9 PM? No. That I blame on the geniuses who created time zones. He was probably confused and no doubt ticked off at me! And, it probably didn’t help that we said yes to virtually every friend and relative in the city who wanted to see us for dinner smack in the middle of the time I’d usually be getting Yoan ready for a bath and then to bed. So much for routine, ah? Not only were we asking the little guy to shut up and go to sleep when he was more up for climbing on tables and luring dust bunnies out of his grandfather’s old wardrobe, we were saying to hell with the bath let’s hang out with some strangers for a few hours.
It was my fault though for falling in love with a Bulgarian; we had yearly trips of crossing several time zones to look forward to. For one brief moment in time I wondered what my life would have been like had my partner been Jamaican or American, even. Hmmmm. On the bright side it meant we would have to take longer vacations. We’d have to so we’d at least be awake for the latter half our stay since jet lag would render us nearly zombie-like for the first half. There was always the option of visiting my father in Jamaica during the summer. An hour’s time difference? Puhlease! We could do that in our sleep!
By the time we drove north to a friend’s in Troyan, I wished that we were bunking some place else. That night Yoan refused to sleep and I excused myself from dinner repeatedly. I’d tiptoe out of the bedroom and scurry to the table breathing a sigh of relief and then…Waaahhh! I’d think, Goddammit, and go back to the room and pick him up – resentful that he wasn’t cooperating and that I was the one stuck with soothing him to sleep. But our hosts were gracious and the ubiquitous bottle of home-made wine, Bulgarian rakia and shopska salad didn’t hurt.
To squelch Yoan’s Olympic-worthy screams, we eventually had him sit with us at the table. The kid grinned like the cat who ate the canary, and proceeded to charm the pants off everyone in the room. Near midnight we all got dressed. Our host slung the stroller over his shoulder and we all went out for a walk. This wasn’t pre-gentrification Crown Heights, Brooklyn where I grew up, so I wasn’t nervous about getting mugged. Plus, we had a cute, if rambunctious, baby. And, even more than older people back home, older Bulgarians were suckers for a cute kid. If we ran into any of them maybe they’d take him off our hands for the night.
That turned out not to be necessary, though. By the time we got back upstairs, Yoan was tuckered out. For Iordan and I, though, sleep was elusive thanks to a damn street light right outside our window. Waaahhh!