By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers
As children, my sister Becky, my aunt Paula and I competed to see who could rise the earliest. In college, the competition turned into who slept the latest. Now, I’m back to being an early bird.
These are the cycles we go through in life. Of course I can’t forget the infant stage. Naturally, I don’t remember my own, but I remember my daughter Laura’s well. Her mission was to wake up mommy at all hours of the night and completely turn her life upside down.
Now that I find myself being an early bird again, it’s different this time. I’m not competing against Becky and Paula and I’m not rushing to the side of a crying infant. But I still feel like I’m involved in a heated competition. This time, it’s me against the clock.
I have several projects I’m trying to finish right now, so these past few weeks have been about getting up as early as I can and seeing how much I can squeeze into 24 hours. But I noticed that even during Christmas break, when things did slow down, I was unable to stay in bed past 9 a.m. Occasionally, I was even out of bed by 8 or 8:30 a.m.
Now, I know you “real early birds” may be laughing, but for me, I’m like, “What is going on here?” During my early days of motherhood, I longed to return to those college days of sleeping until noon or 1 p.m., even 2 p.m. Paula was so good at that. I never could beat her. I tried. I just could not stay in bed all day. I did, however, enjoy sleeping in until noon, although it wasn’t really sleeping — more like daydreaming or just being lazy.
Now that I have had several opportunities lately to relive my college days, I find myself with this abnormal disorder of wanting to get out of bed and accomplish something. This disorder begins to manifest itself when you hit the middle ages and realize that you’re not getting any younger. If you’re ever going to accomplish any unfulfilled lifetime goals and dreams, you’d better get to work now. Know the feeling?
Next thing I know, I’ll return to those abnormal days of my childhood when we would compete, rising up at inhumane hours such as 5:30 and 6 a.m., to watch cartoons. We thought it was so cool to be awake when it was still dark. Becky and I would be sitting there with a blanket on the orange bean bag watching Bugs Bunny. It was cool, too, when we were awake when Dad went to make donuts at the college at the early hours.
When I became a teenager, I looked back to those early morning competitions and thought we must have been insane. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. for Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo. The plots never changed, but Saturday after Saturday, we tuned in.
Here in my middle ages now, I can easily see myself returning to those days. There’s something about that quiet stillness of the pre-dawn hours that I find myself longing for. Many times, lately, I find myself awake in my bed and wanting to get out, but I don’t, not wanting to wake Laura. So I just lie there and get some of my best thinking done.
Every year, my daughter Laura and I rise at dawn to attend the mañanitas de la Virgen de Guadalupe. Of course, Laura, a typical 16-year-old who will sleep in any chance she gets, usually puts up a fight at first. But this past December, as we were driving to the church and it was still dark outside, the sky above still dotted with a few stars, I told her how it reminded me of those summer mornings of my early childhood when Mom and Dad would go work in the escardas. Mom and Dad would carry us girls, wrapped in blankets, and lie us down on Grandma Emma’s couch. There was such a fresh smell in the air during those early morning hours and a feeling of peace as we drove through the town that was still asleep.
I find myself longing for that peace again, for that wonderful feeling of being awake before the hustle and bustle of real life sets in.