Early Morning-itisI have been cursed with early morning-itis.
Ever since I was a child, I'd wake well before the rest of the household. Take this morning, for example.
I'm tiptoeing around my aunt's somewhat familiar home, rummaging around the kitchen trying to find the necessary items for a bowl of cereal. I've been up for nearly an hour and a half while others dream soundly under their comforters.
I am visiting my Mom's hometown where she grew up; a small freckle of a populace dotting Manitoba's spacious, prairie landscape. After spending many childhood summers here, staying at my aunt and uncle's house feels like coming home again.
As I shuffle over to what I'm guessing is the light switch, I give the lever a flick. The serenity of the morning calm is attacked by the hungry blades of a garbage disposal; its motor screaming loudly in anticipation of a feeding.
I decide to forgo the lights and brave my task in darkness.
As I pour myself a serving of Raisin Bran (after scavenging for a bowl and spoon), I squint to decipher how many raisins have blessed my bowl this morning.
Eating in a dark kitchen is sadly familiar; the sound of crunching cereal between my molars the only noise to keep me company. The loneliness of the early morn wraps itself around me like a familiar, tattered blanket.
I think back to when I had a mate on mornings such as these.
During similar visits when I was little, I stayed in my grandparents' little yellow house a couple blocks from here. As usual, I would wake up to the wait I came to expect due to my lack of need for sleep.
After a lengthy read of "Archie" comic books by the bedside light, and knowing my grandmother's French toast was at least two hours from now, I'd creep down the hall, my feet squishing into the soft, plush carpet with every tip toe.
To me, waking up to his company was as thrilling as Christmas morning for I was no longer alone in the dark, waiting for daylight. He too, was an early riser, and I was grateful to have found a kindred spirit.
On these mornings, I would sit beside him; our two recliners arranged in Archie Bunker fashion. We would enjoy the sunrise as it displayed itself in the big picture window. He in his burgundy robe. Me in my fuzzy pajamas.
I asked him why we were made the way we were, up before the rest of the world. Did I inherit this trait from him?
He answered that he was just programmed to rise early from all those years of working and that I, like him, must be a hard worker too. I felt proud.
We talked of many things; his uncanny memory for historical facts wrapping around his own life's stories. His words entertained me as the sun took its time reaching its place: stories of the depression, building the town's Church and arena, leaving home at the age of thirteen to find work, his love for pumpernickel bread. And how important family is and to never be afraid to tell someone that you're sorry.
I listened with an open heart as his words fell inside it.
As we both grew older, I began to lose my morning mate; his body asking him to stay under those covers a few hours longer. I missed him in those moments and, during my last visits to my grandparents' home, it was just me sitting in his chair watching the sun come up on my own.
Alone, waiting for the day.
I've been quite resourceful over the years. I have turned the wee morning hours into my most productive time; exercising or doing chores along with the sunrise. I've caught people off guard in moments where they'd turn on the kitchen light and find me in my jammies scrubbing the outside windows before dawn.
Despite these activities, nothing would have been more appreciative than someone's company during those dark hours. There were a couple phases in my life when temporary circumstances proved just that.
The creation and birth of Saturday morning cartoons when I was eight years old bribed my brothers into companions for a little while. I was thrilled that, they too, were now early risers; keeping me company while we slurped our Corn Flakes in front of Woody Woodpecker and Friends. Until one fateful morning when I went to wake them to join me in front of the TV, they shooed me away. Their need for sleep winning over animated wonders from then on.
For a few years, my Dad left very early for work – around 5:00am. I remember sitting on the bathroom counter, watching him shave before going to the office. I would pass him the toothpaste and hand him a towel when needed. Even if only for a short amount of time, these private little moments each workday became a cherished ritual for me.
On the mornings I would sleep passed 5:00am, I would wake to the sound of the front door closing, my Dad with briefcase in hand heading off to earn his living; our living.
I would scurry out of bed, fly through the door and tackle him with a hug before his responsibilities kept him out of my grasp until nightfall. He'd hug me before shuffling me and my cold, bare feet back into the house. Back into the quiet.
But sitting here in my aunt's house proves to be the more typical circumstance: Dark sky: check. Empty kitchen: check. Alone: checkity-check.
Just as I'm about to spoon my last mouthful of cereal, the sun begins its ascent. I feel its warmth on my face as it paints the cloudless sky with purple and orange. I clue in that I am only a block or two away from where a little girl sat with her grandfather; their eyes taking in a similar, spectacular glow while chatting about nothing. And everything.
As the sunrise nudges life on earth to begin for another day, I surmise the countless pockets of time these early hours have granted me over the years. How lucky I am to have my grandpa's words still resonating with me; influencing my life.
Without those early morning moments, I would have lost out on some very pivotal memories that have kept me company my whole life.
As I finish off my breakfast and shuffle over to the sink, I no longer feel alone in the dark, waiting for everyone's realization of the day's light. And I thank my body for knowing not to trade these hours in for sleep.
And for knowing all along that just because you're alone, doesn't mean that you are.
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