Seizing the day, or at least the morning

July 21, 1998|By Susan Reimer

WHEN I WAS a teen-aged lazy- bones, I used to crawl out of bed about noon on Saturdays and flop in front of the television until I regained total consciousness about 2 p.m.

My father would ruffle my hair and say, good- naturedly, "Hey, sleepy head. You missed the best part of the day."

I would only groan in reply. I thought he was nuts.

My father would rise at 6 a.m., sometimes 5, and, though none of my equally lazy sisters or I ever witnessed it, we heard rumors that he watched the day break with a cup of coffee in his hand -- listening to the sounds, feeling the sun light its fire under a new day.

I assumed that my father's early mornings were just habit. He was a farm boy growing up and, as a breadwinner, his commute to work in downtown Pittsburgh required that he leave very early from our suburban home. Maybe he didn't know how to sleep late.

Now I know better.

Like my father, I have come to love the early morning. And, like my father, I don't resent my lazy-bones teen-agers for sleeping late on their rare free days. Their slumber makes my precious solitude last longer -- it is the adolescent equivalent of nap time.

But, like my father, I believe they are missing the best part of the day.

Spring mornings are scented with the muddy smell of the warming earth. In the fall, the morning air is dry and crisp, hinting at the cold weather to come. OK. OK. Winter is tough, morning, noon or night. But in summer, mornings are particularly precious because it is the only part of the day when the sun does not bake the life right out of you.

These summer mornings, I wake early with perhaps more purpose than my father, who only wanted to hear, see and feel the sun come up.

Early morning in the summer is a window of opportunity to move freely in the outdoors, the only part of the day when both my gardens and I are fresh. I take my coffee and visit each plot, pulling even the tiniest weeds as though they were hairs in my soup.

But gardens are hard work, and any real work must be done before the sun climbs above the trees and rooftops of my neighborhood. I spend myself on those mornings, and by the time my children are awake, my hands are filthy and they shake with fatigue.

There are just a few cars on the neighborhood streets at that hour, carrying workers who are not yet beaten down by the long, hot day. The joggers and the dog-walkers greet me, but mostly I am alone with my thoughts in those quiet hours. My thoughts are quiet, too. Optimism is like dew: it evaporates too quickly, but it is there again every morning.

On some summer mornings, I neglect my flowers and spread my paperwork out on the kitchen table in front of me. Usually, the phone does not begin its rude interruptions until at least 8 a.m., and I have time to think.

I break my busy life into lists during those quiet early hours -- people to call, chores to do, groceries to purchase, errands to run, bills to pay, forms to fill out. Those lists may be as far as I get down that paper trail, but at least I have tamed the chaos for a moment and I feel better for it.

On those summer mornings, I am able to do more with the newspaper than bring it in off the porch. And sometimes I read my cookbooks and make a grocery list based on everything I would like to prepare. We still live on Hot Pockets and grilled cheese in our house, but this pantomime makes me believe I could cook if I had the chance.

These summer mornings, I understand why my father did not resent my laziness, and why I am not bothered by my own children's snoozing. Their rest is my rest, and I believe they are growing and healing as they sleep, and their worries are being smoothed away.

But sometimes I can't help thinking, as they stumble down for breakfast at noon: "You sleepy heads. You've missed the best part of the day."

Pub Date: 7/21/98

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