Rituals: The Lady in the Red Dress

When I was little, I was like most kids: I didn’t like to go to bed. However, I was unlike other kids, perhaps, in that I was almost always happy: Singing, playing, occasionally getting into mischief, and just general loving life. Like really loving it, from the moment I woke up, smiling and raring to go every morning, according to my parents (yes, I agree, that might be supremely annoying in an adult, but don’t worry; although I’m generally an optimist, I outgrew the constant sunniness by my 20’s for the most part. The way I see it, Giselle in Enchanted could only get away with it because she was…well, a princess).

Anyway, as a child, I never wanted to waste precious time sleeping.

If I wasn’t running around having fun inside our little house, I was playing outside in the yard or in the woods with the two sisters closest in age to me, often while at least one of my other, older sisters watched over us. Pa was at work during the day of course. Ma was never far away, but she was busy doing two loads of laundry a day (timing it so the well wouldn’t run dry), cleaning, and cooking for nine – or 11 when we had two “Fresh Air” sisters living with us each summer.

You’d think I would be tired out by the time 7:30pm rolled around.

I suppose I was, but I just didn’t want to give up and hit the sack.

Pa, who ruled the roost with a wonderful combination of military-style strictness and indulgent soft-heartedness (in my eyes anyway), liked to invent games of all kinds, sometimes as a way of connecting playfully with his kids but often also teaching us something important in the process, too (like logical reasoning, persuasion, or sharing etc). In this case, he invented a game by which I could feel I had some control over my bedtime (and therefore never need to dissolve into a tantrum, which would need to be dealt with sternly), but through which I was still following the rules. It was the “Goodnight” game….made popular in our family long before any of us ever knew there was a book called “Goodnight Moon”.

It went like this: when it was time for me to go to bed, Pa would let me say goodnight to everyone in the house (which meant at least eight other people, so that took a while), plus the dog (Lassie), the cats (Dominique, Gigi, and Marmalade), any other pets we might have at the time (there were birds and fish and even turtles at one point or another) and various objects around the house. When I got to the “Lady in the Red Dress” I knew time for bed was really near. I said goodnight to her and then with a big sigh, I let my Mama walk me (and my younger sister) upstairs to bed.

Several years ago, I inherited our family’s (very inexpensive) print of the Lady  – the official name of which I later learned is “Sonata” by M. Ditlef –  and I will always treasure it for the happy memories of times gone by. “Goodnight Lady in the Red Dress!” Anyone have any bedtime rituals you did as children (or do now with your own kids) to share?

Sonata M-DITLEF

“Sonata” by M. Ditlef

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