When I was about 7 years old, I lost the ability to place my head on my pillow, close my eyes, and trust that I would soon slide away into that mysterious state of sleep. Since then, some nights I drift in and out of sleep, others I lay awake all night.
Why did this happen to me? An easy answer is genetics. My mother had a nighttime routine of reading for hour after hour in the darkness by the light of the red lamp firmly rooted on the table next to her bed. My two sisters and I could depend on hearing my mother’s recounting of Pip’s adventures, the sadness of Emma Bovary, or the train crash that prefigured the tragic story of Anna Karenina, depending upon where she had traveled during her readings the night before, just as we could count on my father’s early-morning routine of brewing a pot of coffee and putting out the cereal and milk for our breakfast.