October 9, 2015 — Forty years ago after high school graduation I worked two summers in a bookbinding factory. The economy was eroding so I was fortunate to find summer work at $1.80 per hour. My brother later worked in a hot, dusty, dirty machine shop; I was grateful as my factory was air-conditioned and clean.
My dad believed working on a factory floor would improve our grades during the school year, increase our ambition, broaden our horizons, and heighten our interest in getting a college education. He was right. I spent three months in the summers of 1975 and 1976 fantasizing about a different work reality. My primary goal, standing in front of that cleat-sew machine eight-and-a-half hours a day, was retaining eight fingers and two thumbs. The machines were vengeful and erratic, with wicked tempers.
While dad was correct, my mom perpetuated a lie to me for those two summers.
The factory shift began at 7 a.m., and we often had mandatory overtime at 6:30 a.m. Being clocked in and ready for binding when the whistle blew meant precise planning in transit. Mom and I left the house at 6 a.m. She drove me to a friend’s house three miles away. I rode with several others who worked at the factory in North Manchester.
We reversed the process in the afternoon. I was home at 4 p.m.
Every morning my mom got out of bed with a smile on her face, ready to begin the day. She was always sunny, bright, and cheerful.
That was so annoying.
She came into my pink room about 5 a.m. where I slept beneath a poster of Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw from “Love Story” and started the process of rousing me. I call it a process because the teenager in the twin bed pulled the hot pink rib cord bedspread over her head and said, “Go way for fifteen minutes.”
My ever-cheerful mom went to the kitchen, made coffee, listened to WOWO, and fifteen minutes later came back
The teenager with the grotesque shag hair cut yelled, “Go away. Call me at 5:30 a.m.”
This saint of a woman obliged and the third try was usually the charm. Grumbling and mumbling, I threw on wrinkled Blue Bell outlet jeans, a Whitko t-shirt, and blue and white striped Adidas tennis shoes.
Mom’s next attempt to mold me into a decent human being came at the breakfast table.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” she said. “You have to eat breakfast.”
I went to the refrigerator and grabbed a Pepsi, which nearly caused my mom to become apoplectic. I was eighteen; I was invincible.
In the car on the way to the drop-off point, she shared her trump card.
“Someday you’ll get used to getting up early, and you will enjoy it. When you have children of your own, you’ll love getting up.”
Poor delusional Mom. She lied. Of course, now I would like nothing more than to hear my Mom’s cheerful voice and see her beautiful face again, any time day or night. And as a parent myself, I know she went above and beyond to get me the work experiences and the extra spending money I needed for college. Even if that meant she probably got up an hour earlier than usual.
Still, some caveman relative of mine liked sleeping in the cave longer than the others. I know this has to be in my DNA. I come from a long line of women who believed that someone who sleeps past sunrise has a demon. I still don’t get it. There is no greater joy than pulling the covers up tightly around one’s face, hearing the snores of your partner and your cat, knowing you don’t have to get up.
Mom was right about one thing. I have to get up for my adult responsibilities. I do it, but I don’t have to like it.
My only son slept through the night almost every night after coming home from the hospital. My husband’s family are good sleepers. The secret is to give them a full belly and they are out like a light.
I once heard Dr. Phil say the first fifteen minutes of the day are so important in sustaining a long-term relationship.
Dr. Phil said, “You must greet your partner with great warmth and happiness.”
Great warmth and happiness. Screw that.
I married the right person. We rarely speak to each other in the mornings. We did once. In 2005 when an F4 tornado went through the neighborhood in the very early morning, my partner yelled at me, “Get out of the bathroom and come downstairs.” But that’s the exception.
Neither of us is offended by this lack of talking. We both agree to it and are not slighted. We both get it. I am not a violent person but if I found Dr. Phil in my bedroom at 6 a.m. and he greeted me with warmth and happiness, I might hit him with a cast-iron skillet.
I’m off the grid today – a rare day off. Ask me what time I got up? If you said 10 a.m., you win the prize.