I’m on my way to bed at 930 in the morning and I’m feeling like I had waaaay too much fun last night. I know, I’m too old for this, right? I’ve learned these lessons, right? The party lifestyle doesn’t pay.
I know what you’re thinking and let me clue you in on something that I learned firsthand last night – which is that the aftereffect of spending a night on the floor of a museum with a bunch of Brownies and their mothers is very similar to a tequila hangover.
The troop got to spend a night in the museum courtesy of the Cranbrook Institute of Science. It’s a lavish and privileged private school in the old automobile money part of Bloomfield Hills. Think curving roads through stands of pine woods, brick mansions tucked back behind long drives and wrought iron gates. Think sprawling campus with museums, art & science, glorious landscapes, stone dormitories and chapels.
Cranbrook is kind of a big deal. However, with a troop of seven year olds, I figured, it’s essentially camping. I wore yoga pants and a sweatshirt, put our toothbrushes and a change of underwear in a backpack, and L & I were off.
Upon arriving at the museum, the first thing I saw was one of my fellow moms toiling uphill from the parking lot carrying what looked like a twin size mattress on her back, and pulling wheeled luggage so large that I think her actual child could have fit in it. Either she overpacked or I underpacked.
The programs were pretty excellent- kitchen chemistry, electricity demonstrations with a Jacobs Ladder and a large scale conductor a la Tesla, fossils, and native people. I like scientists. They tend to be extremely intense and passionate about their work, and more than a little weird. For example, the woman educating the girls about native people was excessively fond of her pelts. She stroked them and stuck her fingers through their eye sockets and turned our troop leader green. “The fox pelt is missing a paw,” our leader said from behind her sweatshirt, which she had pulled up over her mouth and nose. “We call him Tripod,” the scientist responded seriously, and moments later the adults were severely told to please be quiet because we were disrupting the workshop. “The badger still has whiskers,” our leader moaned, and set us all off again, and the scientist wrapped “Tripod” around her neck like a jaunty scarf, and shot us a single malevolent glare.
It was a long night and by 9, while we were touring the bat exhibition, I could have rolled out my sleeping bag under the fruit bat cage and slept right there. The bats were intensely fascinating, with their tiny delicate ears swiveling constantly, cuddled into hanging clutches, every now and then spreading a wing to glow in translucent membrane under the lamps.
However, they didn’t smell the best, so I was glad enough to retire to our allotted hallway outside the observatory. One of the moms had plugged in her air mattress, which grated to life and expanded to the size of an actual bed. She donned a headscarf and a set of matching pajamas and eyeshade a la Holly Golightly. On the floor, rolled onto a half-inch blowup pad and swathed in an ancient sleeping bag borrowed hastily from my ex, wearing the same clothes that smelled vaguely like bat, I felt a little bitter.
Lights out and the girls took another two hours to settle. There were trips to the bathroom and much arranging and rearranging of bags. There were murmured conversations about why they didn’t shut the emergency light off, far down at the end of the hall. I ended up next to a girl who wasn’t my daughter and tried to avoid her flailing as she gradually encroached on my pad, the deeper into sleep she slipped. The floor was hard and cold. It seemed that they were piping some sort of new age whale song through the echoing and cavernous halls, or maybe it was the wind echoing in the elevator shaft.
Then, like the rise of frog song all at once on a summer night, the deafening roar and gurgle of a herd of somnolent wildebeests as the Brownie Moms drifted into open-mouthed slumber. I lay awake for awhile. There are more than a few deviated septums in that group. When I finally drifted off, I dreamt of mastodons and the small flutter of bats and dead-eyed frogs blinking at me from behind the thick glass of laboratory jars.
It was the worst night of sleep I’ve had in awhile but the girls will probably remember it for a long time, and as we drove home in the delicate morning sunrise, I had to admit that I probably will, too. Next time I spend a night in a museum, though, I’m bringing earplugs and getting one of those big air mattresses.