Mom in the Morning

I love my mom a lot, but she really hates it when I write about her. So let’s keep this re-post just between us, OK?


Mom's vacuum

When my age reached double digits, Mom let me stay up late on weekends. Not just late, but as late as I liked. This was heady stuff to a 10-year-old, so I spent my Friday nights adjusting the rabbit ears for UHF, staying up until the wee hours to watch cinematic classics like Glen or Glenda and Terror in Tiny Town. The movies were beyond terrible, but they were also on late, so they were awesome.

Mom’s generosity, however, came with a catch. She didn’t care what time I went to bed, but 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 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 stand still for quite a while. I was even more skilled at lying still. I demonstrated this by 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 as quickly as she had come, leaving my door slightly ajar.

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

Part Three:

Part Three always began downstairs as Mom’s canister vacuum cleaner began 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 its iconic roar. Not even my dreams:

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

“Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing” I reply with an irresistible smile.

“You’re my superhero,” she sighs, staring deep into my eyes. She presses her body into mine…


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, sweaty memory.

My room was at the 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 rabid jaguar riding an elephant driving a combine harvester.

At the end of Part Two, Mom left the door to my room slightly ajar. Mom never did anything by accident. As Mom reached my room, she had no need to turn the knob. Instead, 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. My teeth rattled. My head throbbed. My stomach flipped. My joints seared with pain.

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

I rolled out of bed, attempted to ignore Mom’s smirk, and stumbled downstairs. There I 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 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 her housework soundtrack. By the time I made 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 instant we tried to change the channel.


“OK!” Dad and I shouted 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.


60 Replies to “Mom in the Morning”

      1. Those are too tame. Psycho is crazy scary, I’d do anything your mom said to do.

      2. I was a big fan of Psycho, too (it is Hitchcock’s best film, after all), but Mom incorporated it into her day-to-day activities in a way I never could.

        As for me, I was an Adventures of Robin Hood, guy. No one could swash a buckle quite like Erroll Flynn.

  1. Your mom sounds like a dynamo who ran the household like clockwork – despite her inability to tell time. Now I know where you got your house-keeping skills, Mike. She must be as proud of you as you are of her 🙂 I hope she and Ellen got lots of pampering yesterday.

  2. And they were always so perky! (My mom had an upright vac and no stairs, but managed the same result circling the hall by the bedrooms to the living room and back like NASCAR. )
    Great appreciation of the vac’s true expressions ( as witnessed by the lowly like cats and kids sitting on the floor determined to watch the end of the TV show and refusing to get up and clean their rooms) Nice high heels, too. Moms love red.

    1. I would never use “perky” to describe Mom. Perkiness should not be confused with energy, persistence or an incredible work ethic. Perkiness is a state of mind — a chipper “gee-whiz” attitude that leads to bounciness, relentless chipmunk smiles, and a tendency to say “Yay!” much too often.

      Mom is the anti-perky.

  3. Ha! Ha! Fun piece. Mom’s rule! The price you paid for staying up late. She was good. Moms like to get the cleaning done early on Saturday mornings so that they have the remainder of the day to the things they want to do…. 🙂 So, do you have any of her spunk???

  4. When I was little, I somehow discovered the secret to waking my brother up on time for school was to pull his ear. Still works and we’re 24/25 years old.

      1. Lol I do. Neither of us lives at home anymore. But from time to time he’s still late and Mom needs help with something….

  5. Love the Doodle! Sounds like your mom was a little OCD. I have never been a good sleeper. I stayed up late because I couldn’t go to sleep, but I wasn’t allowed to sleep in very often. Once I got caught sneaking out of the house… was out all night and got back in about 4am. I had been asleep 2 hours when my step-dad woke me up and I had to stay awake all day! My punishment came for a month of getting up at 6am every morning to make him breakfast! Ugh…
    I HATE mornings! I still have a hard time waking up! 🙂

    1. Mom is a character, that’s for sure. She likes to describe herself as a humorless person who hates people — but that was either a ruse or a demonstrable lack of self-awareness. In reality she was the funniest most caring person I’ve ever known.

      But she was funny and caring in a very, very German way.

  6. Very entertaining, Mike! I’ve used the vacuum trick many times myself, but never thought of ramming into the bedroom furniture – will have to try that! Maybe I can break the vacuum in the process and then finally have a reason to splurge on a Dyson! That Cinetic Big Ball will be mine someday! lol

    1. Oh, smacking the legs of the bed with the vacuum is a profoundly unpleasant experience, believe me. But Mom had more than that trick up her sleeve. On the very rare occasion the vacuum failed, Mom would “decide” to change the linens. She would rip the blankets off of me and then, like a magician, yank the fitted sheet out from under me.

      Mom got wicked joy out of waking me up.

      As for your comment regarding Dyson, let me just say this: I own one and — no joke — using it has been the most pleasant vacuuming experience of my life.

      1. Haha Mike! Glad to know you aren’t afraid to voice an opinion on your use of domestic equipment! What do you think of the Rowenta iron? I was looking at the Pro Master at Costco last night! lol

      2. I agree, which is why my husband’s shirts go to the cleaners. But the kids clothes don’t, so there you have it. Still need one of those things around the house, unfortunately.

      3. lol Wish I could but my son wears uniform clothes to school and my 19 year old daughter wears every fabric on the planet!
        I know what you mean about younger kids, but that doesn’t always apply when they’re older and get into their appearance especially.
        Have to break down and get the Rowenta! (But they can do their own ironing) 🙂

    1. I still have a bad habit of staying up late. I just love sitting in a nearly dark house when all is quiet and still. It is a perfect environment for contemplation.

      That said, every morning I regret doing so.

  7. Fun story. I’m normally up early, but I just don’t want to get out of bed (dang teenage hormones!), so my Mom goes through Part One, and maybe a little bit of Part Two (although I’m usually out before that). 🙂

  8. I love your mom. She has created a son with humor, veracity, and hopefully tendencies toward hyperbole. On the other hand, I’m not sure you can make this stuff up. My only question is this: why is the woman in your doodle SMILING? I’ve never seen a woman smiling and vacuuming at the same time…

    1. There always is a bit of hyperbole in my writing. But only a *wee* bit.

      As for the vacuumer, the smile is one of anticipation. Mom took great joy in getting me up. One time, when the vacuum failed to get me to rise, she decided to strip the bed with me still in it. As she whipped the fitted sheet out from under me like a magician yanking a tablecloth, she could barely conceal her amusement.

  9. Excellent story. I wish I had your mom’s energy. It’s rare for me to get up before nine. On Sunday mornings, the kids wake me up at 9:30. I should get the mug: World’s Okayest Mom.

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