Bedtime Rituals: Stories, Verses, and Elton John T-shirts

In the mid-70s, before I came along, my parents owned a souvenir store in Lake Tahoe full of keychains, bumper stickers, and dice.  The one thing it didn’t have was customers and the store closed.  They kept some of the nicer merchandise so that by the time I was six, I had my choice of two dozen Elton John t-shirts.

Each night, at 7:45, the “Time to get ready for bed” call went out and Jean, Jake, and I raced down the hall to pick out our favorite of dad’s T-shirts.  We pushed each other at the sink as we pretended to brush our teeth and tried to extend our awake time minutes beyond our 8:00 bedtime.  Mom filled up our pink plastic water cups, I swallowed a little bit of mouthwash and we all ran to bed as we heard dad’s feet begin down the hallway.

This is me, circa-1982, ready for bed in one of my four favorite Elton John t-shirts.

I jumped on my waterbed and tried to keep the waves going as mom kissed me goodnight.  Jean and Jake flopped around, too, trying to emulate me.  But we stopped and were quiet when dad walked in.  He sat on the edge of my bed and we took final sips of water.  And he began.

“Jimmy, Jeannene, and Jacob were playing hide-and-seek, and daddy was it.  They were looking for the perfect hiding spot as daddy was counting in the distance, ‘two, three, four…’  They saw the bush in the corner of the yard and knew that they could fit behind it, but dad was too big.  They ran for the corner and squeezed and shoved themselves behind the bush, but just as dad was getting to ten, Puddles came over and started sniffing the corner.

“Dad was saying, ‘Ready or not, here I come,’ as Jake pulled Puddles behind the bush too.  Dad looked in the treehouse, ‘Nope, no one’s up there,’ he said.  Puddles started digging behind the bush.  ‘I better go look in the corner,’ dad said.

“The kids heard dad coming and Jimmy tried to keep Puddles from digging, but she was going faster and faster and the hole was getting deeper and deeper.  Dad said, ‘I hear something’ as he was almost to the corner, but Puddles was digging too quickly.  She disappeared into the hole and Jacob, not wanting to lose Puddles, grabbed her tail and fell into the hole, too.  And Jean grabbed Jake’s foot and Jimmy grabbed Jean’s foot.  And they fell deeper and deeper into the hole.

“Down and down they went, like on a giant slide.  And then the slide was gone and they were falling faster and faster and then…

“Oh, look at the time, 8:00 already.”

We whined for him to finish.  “Please dad, what happened!”

“Nah, get some rest,” he said giving us forehead kisses where all we felt was beard and mustache.

And he left to go watch Cheers or St. Elsewhere.

Zach’s got a strict bedtime:  8:00.  He finishes his last bottle and we toss him in the crib with his stuffed blue dog which Kris calls Dos Tum and I call Puddles.  We say a verse and sing a hymn.  He makes it about halfway through the hymn before he rolls over and falls asleep.

Zach and Puddles

It’ll be nice when he’s older.  I’ve got lots of stories to tell him.  Lots of stories with no endings.

About Jimmy

The stories herein are about a sentimental 80s child who cried at every showing of ET (the sad part where he was lying in the wash) and his families, then and now. His wife, son, parents, and siblings play their parts well. They have their exits and their entrances. Sometimes their exits are sad, but not as sad as ET.
This entry was posted in 2nd Grade, fatherhood, Nostalgia and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Bedtime Rituals: Stories, Verses, and Elton John T-shirts

  1. inkline says:

    It will be nice! Then I’ll get to hear stories, too!
    Babe, it’s Dostum – Dost means Friend, the ‘um’ makes it ‘my friend’.
    You don’t get to pick the stuffed animal’s name until you’ve changed more dirty diapers than I have.

    • Jimmy says:

      You must have missed that chapter in the parenting handbook.

      It’s the person who refills the humidifier who names stuffed animals. I sure am glad that I have that household chore!

  2. gigoid says:

    Great memories…. and kudos for passing them on to your own son….

  3. terry1954 says:

    i enjoyed reading this

  4. colonialist says:

    Your father was lucky to get away with that. He should have had my grandchildren to contend with. They would have FORCED endings out of him. And, in the case of one of my lot, insisted on at least four sequels to that story. And to get the whole lot written down, and to find someone to do illustrations.

    True! It has just happened.

    • Jimmy says:

      My nephew, his grandson, insisted that he tell a full story and then my nephew would repeat it to his mom before he went to sleep. It was always fun to see how the story changed.

  5. Dianna says:

    As always, enjoyed your post….and your wife’s comment!
    And loved the pictures.

  6. Mom says:

    Your Dad still tells great stories, but when I told stories you all fell asleep before the end.

    • Jimmy says:

      I’m pretty sure that was by design. You told the same story every night with lots of soft metaphors and trickling streams. You also made the story last long enough so that we were sleeping by the time it ended.

  7. I am SO bad at stories, I’ve had to stick to printed material, pretty much since the boys were born. Ha Ha. I do caution you to keep on eye on the elaborateness or length of the bedtime ritual. By the time they were six, we had at least a ten-step process going, and I’ve been trying to cut it back ever since. Crossing our fingers that they’ll be willing to turn out their own lights soon — especially since they stay UP later than us some nights!

    • Jimmy says:

      I only included my part in the bedtime ritual. My wife sings him hymns while she gives him the night’s last bottle (I’m listening to her sing while I type right now). When he’s almost asleep, I swoop in for goodnight kisses and a verse or two. Then, we sing one song together and I leave with the empty bottle while my wife tucks him in, turns on the monitor, and gives him one last song.

      It takes a bit of time, but it’s one of the best times of the day.

  8. Maxi says:

    Your home is a wonderful place for your children. Never tire of Zach’s photo, so precious. Blessings – Maxi

  9. Dor says:

    Your stories always make me smile. This one is no exception. You have an uncanny ability to go back in time to your own childhood and to relive it in like an instant replay. What a wonderful gift for Zach to enjoy when he’s all grown up with a son of his own.

  10. societyred says:

    Great story! I’m pretty sure I had that same Elton John t-shirt! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Adrienne says:

    I’m always glad I save your posts to read together…such a wistful nostalgia washes over me! I just love every minute of every memory of singing my babies/toddlers/kiddos to sleep. I could manage to make up songs, but never did make up a story for them. That was dad’s job. Every so often they’d get him at bed time….and every character you could imagine made their way into the tale…style ‘little mermaid meets batman’ … I never actually heard one of these stories, just lots of giggles…

  12. sandrabranum says:

    Thanks for liking my blog and reminding me of the great stories my dad told. I’ve got to write some of them down to share…

  13. orples says:

    Don’t blink Jimmy, ,before you know it, precious little Zack will be asking you for the keys to your car. It doesn’t take them long to grow up at all.

  14. Zach is ADORABLE!! As mom to three sons (now 24, 21 and 18), I love little boys. Such fun! Loud, messy..and wonderful. Enjoy your son, love him like crazy and never stop telling him stories…God bless you and your family.

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