Monday, October 3, 2011

and all the men and women merely players

i have many roles in my family.

isn't it odd how these things go? how humans seem to settle into roles, into patterns - both in families and in circles of friends. how we expect this of ourselves, of each other. how we fall back into these roles when surrounded by the same people and their palatable expectations of our roles - even if we don't want  to play that part anymore.

for example, when i was a kid, i was the (oh-god-here-comes-the) freak out specialist. every family's got one, right? i still hate the way family will steel themselves, expecting an outburst out of me sometimes. it makes me want to, oh, i don't know, freak out on them.

and back home, i'm still the lazy-ass who sleeps all morning long, for many complicated reasons, including that in some homes 'morning' means 6 am, even after someone goes out with old friends the night before. 

now i've got lots of new roles. i cover many of the main mother ones: the disapproving of belching at the table. the have you eaten a fruit or vegetable in the last seventeen days police. and the turn off the t.v. monitor.

among other things.

i'm also, oddly enough, now the first one up in the morning. and while occasionally i resent this, and want to be the second or third one up, want to be the one sleeping in instead, overall i love it.

partly because it's kind of essential. partner and young lad are just not morning people. they require a long transition time from sleep to wake, one that involves quiet and coffee (well, just one of them needs coffee so far) and food in peace. older lad is, by nature, a fast waker, but has thoroughly embraced teenager-hood and rises as late as possible on all occasions.

but still, this morning, as i sat on the couch in the pre-dawn, i realized there's a couple of specific reasons why i relish that particular role.

for one, i love the morning quiet - when i can move about the house and hear, in the silent pauses when i stop, only the sound of the rain and birds.

it is my favorite time of day. if it was raining the night before, and i was able to fall asleep with that as the last sound in my ears, it's the perfect continuation of a comforting soundtrack. the soft whisper of it on the rhododendron leaves, the ping! ping! of it on the stove hood outlet in the kitchen.

i talk to the cats as i move from my bedroom to the kitchen. they like to swoop in and out of my legs, clamoring for food. but once they are fed, the house returns to quiet.

and yet, it's not lonely. all around me are people. it's the perfect combination of alone and not alone, of quiet and impending noise.

before all the commotion of the day. before anyone has a single request of me - well, apart from the cats. before the world is filled with the constant background chatter. before the mom-nagging that i do to get everyone out of the door, before the hubbub of my office, before email and my iPod and the sound of cars and trucks on the road.

for another, although my younger son used to be quite cuddly when he was young, he rarely will let anyone hug or hold or kiss him now that he's all of seven. he quickly transitioned into being quite averse to displays of affection.

except for the morning. when i go to wake him up, i leave my cup of coffee on the counter, because i need both hands free.

he opens his eyes slowly, stretching groggily several times. then he stumbles to the bathroom to pee. first things first!

it's after the necessary steps have been taken that the morning magic happens. he allows me to hoist him up - he's so big that this is difficult, but it's worth it - and he will sit on my lap for a few blissful moments on the couch.

the house is quiet. the house is still. there around us are the sounds of the rain and the birds, of the sleepy town waking up in the distance. i can feel the wings of his little-kid shoulder blades through his pyjamas. i can feel the softness of his little-kid cheek. i can bury my face in his hair. i can hold him, for a moment, just the same as when he was young. i can envelop him - or try to, anyway - in my arms. i'm quiet, he is quiet. the world is peaceful and still.

sometimes, people talk about the baby-love that occurs, or even about a baby-addiction - how you can get addicted to babies. i've never been a baby addict, but i can glimpse something of what they are talking about. for me, it's not about anything other than the ability to hold someone until you are done. to be able to shower someone with physical affection until you're completely tapped. to be able to, as often as you want, return to them with love and caring and holding.

because for babies, there is no enough. they always want to be held. you'll wear out before they do. so to be able to so completely have your needs for holding fulfilled - to be completely satiated, to be full of cuddling - is such a rare treat. with adults, it almost never happens. someone is always done before you, someone is always pulling away before you.

but with babies, and little kids, and even my kleiner mann, there's that sense of fulfillment, that sense of being full of love, that's so hard to come by elsewhere. granted, my expectations have lowered substantially. during the baby days i could cuddle him for an hour, easy, just holding and feeling his tiny feet and kissing his tiny head. i've got to fill up my stores faster these days, it's true. because the morning magic doesn't last more than a few minutes. then he'll stretch his way out of my embrace. "i'm hungry", he'll say, and shake free of the mom and the couch and the slow-wake-up, stumbling for the kitchen. and the other sounds will start to build from the rest of the house - the alarm clock of the older lad, as he wakes himself for another day. the cats demanding to go outside, now that they are fed. the cars slowly passing by on the street. the crash of cereal bowls and the fridge opening.

but to me, all that noise is ok. because i've filled my role as the early waker. cheerful and efficient, i'm ready now to face the cacophony of the day. because it turns out that being the early waker is a glorious role to have.