Monday, August 08, 2005

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Alexander has, so far, two stuffed animals (a lamb and a bunny), that, when you squeeze their tummies,, utter a "bedtime prayer" -- it's an updated version of one that I was taught when I was young. Let's go back to that one, shall we.

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the lord my soul to keep

(okay, that part's kind of nice, soothing, relaxing, a good preparation for bedtime and it rhymes, which is always good for children's verse. But it goes on from there)

If I should die before I wake
I pray the lord my soul to take

You see, that's where it got scary for me. C'mon, what kid is going to readily close their eyes and go to sleep with that kind of threat hanging over their head? Yeah, okay, Mommy, I'm ready to go to sleep now. By the way, if I happen to kick the bucket in the middle of the night -- you know, if the bogeyman doesn't keep his post in the closet or under my bed, but instead decides that tonight is the night that he's going to get me -- let's ensure my soul goes to heaven. All right, I'm ready to close my eyes now.

Geez, no wonder I write horror stories.

The sanitized version that Alexander's stuffed animals say end the four line verse thusly:

The angels watch me through the night
Until I wake in morning light

Ah, a relaxing ending that's properly fitting to the beginning. At first, the idea of this bugged me the same way I still feel my blood pressure soaring when I see a sanitized version of those Looney Tunes cartoons where the violent bits are taken out. I mean, you see Elmer Fudd with a rifle, you see Daffy Duck with a normal face. Then there's a giant cut, something happens, and Daffy's beak is swirling around his head. Hmm, wonder what happened. It's an insult to children's intelligence that they're not going to put two and two together. Same with Wile E. Coyote's constant falls -- they're a wonderful running joke throughout the entire cartoon universe. Shame on the censors. Shame.

But with this children's verse, I'm now okay with it now. I guess it was efforts from thousands of sleep deprived children who grew up to be sleep deprived adults finally lobbied to get this verse changed. Therapists everywhere are shaking their heads at the sudden decline in clients.

We have a beautiful blanket hanging on the wall behind Alexander's crib that has the first line of this verse on it. For the past couple of months every time I put him down I see that line and repeat both the old and new versions of the bedtime prayer in my head. Then I go to thinking I should really take this old story I'd written about the horrors that man discovers are going on in his room while he's sleeping that I'd originally titled "Deadly Perceptions" and modify the story title to "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep"

I've been wanting to rewrite this story for years now, recognizing that the reason it kept getting rejected wasn't because the idea wasn't interesting, but because the characters fell flat. This story deserves to be re-tackled with fully fleshed out characters. Maybe then the reader will be just as scared as I at the premise that there's something barely visible watching them when they're at their most vulnerable.


Anonymous said...


This one's a classic.

Yes! You should definitely re-write this one!

Anonymous said...

I've never really given it much thought but you are right - that is one disturbing prayer. I think I may have just found the root cause of my insomnia. :)