I never listened to music when I went to bed as a kid. I don’t remember wearing headphones with tunes blasting into my ears as I floated off to dream land. I don’t even recall having a music box playing lullabies as a little one, either. What I do remember was using a fan to go to sleep. Even in the dead of winter the slow hum of an oscillating fan would get me to sleep faster than anything(even to this day it does.) Something about white noise always lulls me into sleep.
In my early 20s, when my wife and I moved into an apartment together, that changed. We bought a Sony Dream Machine, which was basically an alarm clock with a CD player. We started listening to CDs as we went to bed. Bela Fleck’s Tales From The Acoustic Planet, Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream, an Andres Segovia collection, and even some new age-y “nature sounds” CD were featured during Hubner bedtime.
I don’t know what changed from childhood to adulthood, but music was something that became a staple of bedtime. Maybe it was the fact that we had a CD player in our alarm clock, so why not? Now that I think of it, it was probably more because we lived in an apartment complex with lots of buildings with lots of tenants moving about all hours of the night. We were on the second floor, so it wasn’t as bad. But things were still noisy and anything we could do to drown out the banter from 2A or the arguing in 3C or the partying at the pool, the better.
From adulthood to parenthood that process of music at night continued. Each of the kids had some sort of night music contraption. First in their cribs with a night light that played lullabies. My favorite was one that attached to the side of the crib and played these beautiful versions of lullabies. The songs were very jazzy but sweet. I can remember, with the light off in their room, pushing the button to turn it on. It would begin playing and these low-glowing lights would come on. I’d sit in the rocker that was in the nursery and I rocked two out of three of the kids to sleep with that music box(our oldest essentially slept with us the first 9 months, so no rocking was necessary.)
As they got older, we went from a music box to a boom box. Our daughters shared a bedroom for awhile when our son was born. You wouldn’t know it now that they’re 18 and 15, but when they were 6 and 3 they got along really well. My wife and I gave them our master bedroom while we moved into a smaller room. They had a bunk bed and lots of room to play. I would often tell them bedtime stories, which consisted of bizarre, on-the-fly tales about Dr. Mindbender and his two assistants, Claire and Audrey. Or sometimes there were tales about Claire and Audrey going home through some Gothic woods and being chased by forest gnomes and aliens disguised as their least favorite grandma. Though the stories may have scared them, they asked for more adventures every night. When the tales were over, I tucked them into bed and put on Bedtime With the Beatles by Jason Falkner.
My son never quite caught onto the music at bedtime ritual, but my 15-year old still falls asleep every night with headphones on. She says it’s hard for her to fall asleep without something playing. My wife and I upgraded the Sony Dream Machine years ago, but the CD player no longer works. So we fall asleep to the oscillating hum of a tower fan. Through the mechanical wind and the mini-motor mechanism housed in Chinese plastic I sometimes think I can hear a faint song. Maybe Monk? Maybe Fleck? Or maybe a soft jazz version of “Rock-a-bye-baby”.
Before I can figure out that imagined song I’m usually asleep, lost in thoughts of simpler times and sweeter times. When bedtime was made up adventures involving two little girls, a crazy scientist, and aliens disguised and grandmas, and everyone fell asleep to “Across The Universe”.