I’m a morning person. I get up early while my family remains nestled all snug in their warm comfy beds. This does not mean they are sleepyheads. Or lazybones. It’s just that I’m a particularly early riser. For it is only at this time that the house is quiet and still. Like in the Herman’s Hermits song, “there’s a kind of hush.” Just the way I like it.
When I’m in full-blown writing mode I get up, I make a cup of hot tea and head for my room. But it wasn’t always so. The room was there but I wasn’t. I was in another room with a bed and a warm body next to mine. That was, and is, nice. But for a writer, and a creative spirit, it’s not enough. I made excuses for why I wasn’t in my very special room doing creative things. You know the kind. Family commitments. Full time job. Busy life full of distractions and diversions. Pets to walk. Cakes to bake. But excuses aside, the truth was it made me sad. Glum. Blah. Whiny even. Then I had this eureka moment about 15 years ago. The switch was flipped and the light went on. I had this notion that if I got up an hour or two earlier I could go into my room and do stuff. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that would be exactly. But as it turns out I had a novel to write. Some poems. A ton more letters to God. And a few song lyrics. Then some music to go with those. I learned that much can be accomplished in the wee hours before 6:00am.
The truth is, it wasn’t all that difficult for me to get up that early in the morning. Pre-dawn rising is part of my family heritage. If geneticists were to look inside our DNA, I’m certain they would find some little atypical first-light wrinkle in one of our chromosomes.
Little back story. Because the Old Man was a Breadman, his workday began early. Crack of dawn. He had to get to the bakery, load his truck and be on the road delivering the bread and other baked goodies by 7:00am. This was back in the day, when it was essential to deliver the ultimate in freshness door to door. Warm and ready.
Ma always got up with The Old Man. While he was getting ready for work, she was busy in the kitchen. A fresh pot of coffee was perking in the dented aluminum Percolator with the black handle and glass knob on top. Once the water-coffee mixture began to bubble up into the knob, Ma would turn down the heat and let it settle and simmer on low. While the coffee was brewing, the well-oiled cast iron frying pan was in full-on action. Four strips of bacon fried to a medium crisp. Two eggs. Sunny side up with a fringe of brown crunch. Two slices of white Wholesome bread toasted to golden perfection, then buttered. The table was set for one. Next to The Old Man’s plate was a jar of Kraft strawberry jam or orange marmalade, a bottle of homogenized milk, a bowl of white sugar, and glass shakers of salt and pepper. These were the scrumptious aromas of morning for the thirty-plus years that The Old Man worked for the bakery. This was the first heavenly scent of dawn and waking up.
Sometimes I would get up before The Old Man left for work and join him at the table. But mostly I got up afterwards and had breakfast alone with Ma. I loved my morning time with her. I was never really that hungry in the morning but I ate anyway. Mostly to appease Ma, so she wouldn’t worry or fret that I was malnourished or starving to death. Ever since I was a youngster I drank coffee. The Old Man was a Finlander so coffee was a huge part of his personal culture. Next to Vodka, coffee was the Finn’s beverage of choice. The coffee of my wonder years was nothing like it is today. We’re not talking Starbucks super strength here. Back then, coffee was akin to dish water. And we were blissfully ignorant of any harm it may have caused a child. I enjoyed my daily morning coffee until I hit my early twenties when I quit cold turkey. As it turned out, it wasn’t so good for my sensitive nervous system, causing my body to shake rattle and roll after one or two sips. Tea, in particular herbal or decaf, then became my beverage of choice for decades. It’s only been recently that I have started to enjoy one cup of coffee in the morning. All things wonderful. Ma and I were also Tea Grannies and loved our Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey. Especially with fresh-baked cookies. Simply divine.
For the most part, Ma and I had toast and jam for breakfast. We kept it sweet and simple. White bread. Lots of butter slathered on first, then a big dollop of jam. Sometimes we’d add peanut butter. Sometimes we didn’t add anything. Just butter. It all depended on whether we were in a sweet or savory mood. My morning coffee was really more milk and sugar than it was coffee. And it was delicious. Sweet. And creamy. I drank it down quickly in big gulps. Sometimes I slurped it from my spoon like soup. But mostly I poured it back. “Ahhhhh. That was sooooo good Ma,” I’d exclaim.
I enjoyed this quiet breakfast time with Ma. We huddled together, both in our flannel nighties, and talked about things. The kinds of conversations mothers have with their little girls. Precious. Intimate. Confidential. I shared all my secrets with her. I knew she was the one person in the entire world that I could trust completely with my tender young heart. I told her funny stories. She laughed. I relayed the nightmare that woke me up in the middle of the night. She comforted. I confessed my unrequited love. She consoled. I cried over my broken heart. She caressed. I confided my dreams for the future. She encouraged. I hurt her feelings. She forgave.
On special occasions or holidays, when the family gathers, I still like to get up early, even though I don’t write during vacation time. Our entire family comes together at Christmas and I’m usually the first one up. I like to putter around in the kitchen and put the coffee on. And that’s when it happens. The fresh brewed aroma takes me back. To a little kitchen table with its cheerful homespun tablecloth. It’s set for two. It’s cold and dark and wintry outside. But it’s warm and bright and safe inside. Ma pours me a cup. Life is good.