The Night I Saw the Boogie Monster

My earliest memory.

I didn’t sleep well.

In fact, I was quite the little monster when it came to sleep, refusing to close my eyes in a peaceful slumber for longer than five minutes. I stubbornly refused to adhere to the sleep schedule of the rest of the world, preferring to get my shut eye during the day. I’d cry inconsolably from 11pm to 6am, falling asleep only when the first rays of sunlight hit exhausted, bloodshot eyeballs.

My parents tried the usual tricks to get me to sleep, of course. They bought a state-of-the-art mechanical swing that only made me flap my stubby wings in a fearful protest. Warm milk made messy sheets and an upset stomach. Music left me in a quiet rapture, but never for long. I was hopeless.

Eventually, my parents figured out that I could be easily lulled to sleep during car rides. They’d strap me in my carseat kicking and screaming, and before long I’d become the personal definition of Sleeping Beauty for my parents: beautifully, finally, asleep. However, it was nearly impossible to get me from my carseat to my crib without disturbing my peaceful slumber, and I’d often wake with a piercing wail that would last throughout the night. My mother would hold me against her chest, rock me in her arms, and croon soothing words in my ear, but to no avail. I refused to sleep.

Sometimes, my father would decide to help, probably on nights when my wailing was impossible for him to sleep through. On these nights, I’d be asleep in a matter of minutes, an ear pressed to my father’s chest like a human stethoscope. My mother was baffled by this. Why would I fall asleep so easily for my father, but spend hours in despair with her? This unfair expression of favoritism fueled my mother’s frustration with me. Upon birth, my lips had been deemed too small for normal suckling, and I’d been tube-fed formula until I could manage a bottle. It seemed endearing until it became to look like yet another personal slight against my mother.

“My baby doesn’t love me!” My mother cried.

My father attempt to deny this by setting up little tricks to make my mother my “hero.” He’d place me in my crib, and send my mother to “rescue” me as I screamed my loudest. However, my screams would only subside as soon as the sound of my father’s heartbeat could soothe me to sleep. Rigidly postured and petrified of waking me, my father would catch glimpses of sleep as I snored against his chest, always vowing in the morning that I would never again leave my crib in the middle of the night. I could cry all night, but I would not be consoled! 

But as much as he tried to deny it, my father was my hero, and the sole savior of sleep in the Mathys family household of three. As long as his heart was beating, he was stuck with me, another lesson and blessing wrapped in a baby-blanket bundle. 

Eventually, my parents managed to get me to fall asleep in my own bed. The nocturnal schedule I kept as a newborn diminished with my transition into toddlerhood where I was finally able to recognize sleep as a luxury. However, I would still wake in the middle of the night with tears streaming down my face, begging to join my parents in their bed. My mother tells me I would claim to have woken from nightmares in which strangers wouldn’t stop talking to me, but if that’s what occurred, I have no recollection of these nightmares.

I do, however, remember a night I woke crying and blubbering all the way to my parents’ room. I remember, precisely because it was the night I saw the boogie monster. Not the imaginary monster that hides in closets or under beds, but the actual, real-life boogie monster. The kind that creeps into the corners of eyes during sleep and leaves crusty little eye boogers upon waking. Usually the boogie monster is relatively harmless, but on this particular night, it was terrorizing.

I woke in the middle of the night to find that the boogie monster had covered both of my eyes in a screen of boogers. I blinked behind a veil of green, the glow of my Winnie The Pooh nightlight muted. I began to cry in panic as I blindly made my way to my parent’s room, running my hand along the familiar walls to guide me. My mother was the first to notice me when I burst into their room, but I ran straight for my dad who was the closest to the door.

“Daddy, daddy!” I cried. 

He jumped out of bed to a sight that must have been as scary for him as it was for me because he immediately took me into the bathroom to wipe my eyes with a warm washcloth. As the boogie monsters film of fear faded from my eyes, so did my tears.

This is my first memory. I was only three.

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