Mom in the Morning

My love and respect for Mom knows no bounds. She taught me persistence, how to deal with failure, and how to relentlessly — yet morally — pursue my passions. In other words, she is a big reason why I am a writer.

And, as the following proves, Mom also taught me how to become an early riser.

***

In the early 1980s, when my age finally reached the early double digits, Mom let me stay up late on weekends. Not just late, but as late as I liked. This was heady stuff to an 11-year old. If I wanted to stay up to watch the late, late movie on UHF, I could! It didn’t even matter if the movie was crappy (because it usually was). It was late late! Woo!

There was, however, a big catch to Mom’s flexible bedtime rules. Though Mom didn’t care what time I went to bed, she did care what time I got up. Anything after 9 a.m. was strictly forbidden. If there was even the slightest chance I’d oversleep, she would give me The Wakeup Call.

The Wakeup Call soon became a cruel, cruel Saturday morning tradition. It was divided into three parts.

Part One:

“It’s almost 9 o’clock,” Mom said brightly as she entered my room.

I squinted at my alarm clock. It said 7:30.

7:30 is not “almost 9 o’clock” to anyone. I tried to explain this to Mom, but she had already hustled off to another part of the house wielding a laundry hamper and a can of Pledge. Mom, then as now, couldn’t stand still for very long.

I, on the other hand, could, then as now, stand still for quite a while. I was even more skilled at lying still — and I demonstrated this skill by immediately falling back to sleep.

Part Two:

“It is now 9 o’clock!” Mom announced with a stridency in her voice that wasn’t there in Part One. “Get up!”

She turned on the lights and raised my shades, filling the room with the weak morning light. The morning light was weak because the sun had barely begun its journey over the horizon.

It was 7:45.

Then, as before, she exited just as quickly as she had come, leaving my door slightly ajar.

“OK,” I said to the empty room. “OK, OK, OK…” I put a blanket over my head and wondered how my mom became a teacher without ever learning how to tell time.

Part Three (which I believe is outlawed by The Geneva Convention):

Part Three began downstairs as Mom’s canister vacuum cleaner commenced its industrial strength assault on the family room carpet. Mom’s vacuum was not like other vacuums. I think she had it custom made with Harley-Davidson parts. No corner of the house could escape it’s iconic roar. Not even my dreams.

“What’s that noise?” a breathless, bespectacled Lynda Carter asks. “Is it an earthquake?”

“Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing” I reply with irresistible confidence and elan.

“You’re my superhero,” she sighs, looking deep into my eyes. We resume our embrace…

KA-TUNK! KA-TUNK! KA-TUNK!

With the ground floor now free of dust, Mom ascended to the second floor, slamming the vacuum against each step as she climbed. There were 13 steps. She ka-tunked every one.

And my lovely Lynda was only a wistful memory.

My childhood room was at the very end of a long, carpeted hallway. In my half sleep, I heard the vacuum’s slow, inexorable approach. It didn’t sound like a Harley anymore. It was more like a caged jaguar riding an elephant driving a combine harvester.

And, as each second passed, it grew louder and louder.

At the end of Part Two, Mom left the door to my room slightly ajar. Mom never did anything by accident. As the vacuum reached my room, she had no need to turn the knob. Without breaking stride, she used the head of the vacuum as a battering ram. The door slammed open and my room was alive with noise.

Mom didn’t tell me to get up. That ship had sailed. Now the vacuum did the talking. When I still failed to move, Mom rammed it against the legs of my bed, creating a noise I felt more than heard – one I couldn’t escape no matter how tightly I wrapped the pillow around my head. My teeth rattled. My head throbbed. My stomach flipped. My joints ached.

“I’M UP!” I shouted. “I’M UP! I SWEAR TO GOD I’M UP!”

And Mom couldn’t quite conceal her smile.

I stumbled downstairs and found Dad seated at the kitchen table looking as exhausted as I felt. When Dad was dog-tired, he would stare at his coffee as if he had suddenly forgotten what he was supposed to do with it. The kitchen clock read 8:05.

“Mom got me with the vacuum,” I said.

“Oh, poor you,” he replied. “I got up to go pee an hour ago, and by the time I got back, the bed was made.”

Through our haze we stared at the TV. On it was the scene at the end of Psycho where the psychiatrist rambles on about Norman’s condition. This, too, was part of The Wakeup Call. Every Saturday morning Mom slammed the Psycho VCR tape into the machine. It was, I suppose, her housework soundtrack. By the time I’d make my way downstairs, the psychiatrist speech was always about to begin. To this day, both Dad and I have his speech memorized. It is our party trick.

We were not allowed to turn the movie off. No matter where Mom was in the house, she always knew the moment we tried to change the channel.

“PUT THAT BACK ON!”

“OK!” Dad and I would shout back in unison.

We did as we were told, neither one of us daring to complain. For, despite our weariness, both of us noticed that the house was dust free. The furniture was polished. The clothes were laundered. The dishes were put away. The house was perfect in a way that only Germans can make a house perfect. Man oh man did we feel lazy.

So Dad and I sat and watched the movie as Mom half listened to the dialogue from some distant corner of the house with that  vacuum by her side – a weapon she could wield with such terrible accuracy as to put Norman Bates and his pathetic butcher knife to shame.

 

47 thoughts on “Mom in the Morning

  1. “I got up to go pee an hour ago, and by the time I got back, the bed was made.”—–Hahaha, love that!

    Wow, I now see that I’m far too easy on my teenage sons. I let them sleep until ten on weekends, and I’ve never assaulted their bedrooms with a vacuum before they’re up. Hmm, time for things to change in the Rubin home…

  2. Great story! Unless we have to be somewhere, I tend to let my kids sleep as long as they want on the weekends, not just let them, but actively encourage it by making sure I am very quiet while they sleep – I’m always concerned that they don’t get enough sleep during the week, so I like them to catch up at the weekends if they can, plus it gives me a chance to catch up on some chores uninterrupted!

  3. As much as I’d love to exact this kind of benevolent tyranny on my children (for their own good, of course), I would never do it with housework.

    Ice cubes between their toes, maybe, but not the vacuum. I’m not even sure where it is…

  4. You mom and mine attended the same drill sergeant academy, or maybe they were born there. But my mom didn’t listen to Psycho, she sang “Work for the night is coming” nonstop. In fact, that was the theme at her memorial service. That, and the quote: “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” She succeeded.

    You made me snort at least three times while reading this. And now I’ve got to go back and read it again. Favorite line: “caged jaguar riding an elephant driving a combine harvester”

    Oh, I can still smell the Pledge.

    • “Work for the Night is Coming” would be a bit too “on the nose” for my mom. Mom worked all the time, but never felt that work was ever worth singing about.

      Psycho was a much better fit, for it was Mom’s way of saying “Cross me and you’ll regret it, buddy!”

  5. Mike, Thoroughly enjoyed your tribute to your mom. While I was reading, though, I kept thinking you should be writing middle grade. I bet you could use some of this. Anyway, hoping this is food for thought. Great post!

  6. Oh, thank you for that, Mike! It was so entertaining! And if your mom needs something to clean she is welcome at my house – no one would ever call me a good housekeeper – you could get her out of your hair for days! 🙂

  7. I let my male progeny sleep in because there was blissful quiet whilst they dozed. In fact, I had a rule they could not venture out of their rooms until after 8:00 am. The dust bunnies could converge under the couches and beds in my house as long as I had a peaceful morning.

  8. I’ve got a similar German-engineered woman in my life: my mom-in-law! I can only imagine the effort it takes for her not to outwardly shudder when she sees my “housework.”
    You’ve got a gift for the funny, Mike. I’m glad you’re working on a mg!

  9. Oh, the danger of loud vacuums.
    My mom was a lot more lenient with sleeping in. Now, however, my body has decided 6:45 is an excellent time to wake up. No need for a vacuum to ram down the door.

  10. You crack me up. This is hilarious because you are a funny guy. You mom is a comedian. You knew she was killing herself laughing all the time this was going on, right? That poor woman worked hard and despite not having time to actually sit and enjoy herself, she worked and laughed and you didn’t even know it. Ha ha. I love her.
    Confession time: my mother was a lot like her. 🙂

  11. “a caged jaguar riding an elephant driving a combine harvester” I’d love to see an illustration of that… 😉
    **Note to self – do not let my mom read this post – she may get pointers…

  12. LOVE your mom. I love her approach and her philosophy. She and I are kindred spirits. Thus I’m awake at 5:30 and walking by 6:30. Your mom needs to revisit you with the vacuum! (Truly fabulous descriptions and yes, middle grade book for sure.)

  13. This Mom story made me miss mine a lot. I loved it and laughed through the whole thing. You certainly brought it to life with your words. Oddly, I was unaware that Linda Carter entered young boys dreams in that fashion as early as 11. 😉

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