For slow mornings

On the 29th day, I’m grateful for quiet mornings.

The house I grew up in was 1050 square feet – three bedrooms and one bathroom. One tiny bathroom. Mom, Dad, and three sons – I am the oldest. And there was never a time, it seemed like, when someone wasn’t in the bathroom. In the evenings, we stacked up like cordwood, just waiting on the person in front of you to take a bath or shower, and while being the oldest meant I got to stay up the latest, it also meant there was no hot water to be found when I got in there.

So somewhere along the way, I decided to start waking up early and taking a shower then. It was lovely – take as long as you want, run the hot water tank dry if you want, because it’s an hour at least before anyone else will need the hot water. And the house was quiet and still, making the gentle sounds a house makes in the dark: The hum of the refrigerator, the rhythmic whir of the ceiling fans, the soft padding of the cat on the tile floor.

I came to look forward to that hour that was just mine, alone in the house before anyone else stirred. It was a sort of freedom.

In Boot Camp, your time was scheduled from the minute they woke you up until the moment you got in bed. We showered by the clock, peed by the clock, put on our socks to the sounds of Drill instructors counting down from 5. You were never, ever alone.

Every night, Marine regulations required there be two people on watch all night, from lights out to lights on the following morning. We took one hour shifts, and the watch roster was posted. By the end of the first week, I would look to see who had the watch the hour before lights on, and ask them to wake me up 45 minutes early. I would then take a long, slow, comfortable solo shower, shave my face with care and attention, and then slip back into bed 5 minutes before the lights came on, Drill Instructors screaming for us to get up.

Again, getting up early had saved my sanity.

Even when I lived alone, getting up early, before the world is moving, was always my happy place. I can write uninterrupted, nobody is going to call me, nobody expects anything from me.

But the favorite thing I love about mornings is what I think of as the reset button. My energy peaks about an hour after I wake up, and then it’s a slow downward taper the rest of the day. But that first hour is slow and gentle. It’s like someone reset the etch a sketch. It’s a blank slate, a clean sheet of paper. No mistakes made yet, nobody yet disappointed, no balls yet dropped. No matter how horrible the day before was, I wake up each morning excited because it’s a whole new chance to be my best self.

I will get up in my quiet house – houses make more noises now than they did when I was a child, what with air conditioners, computer fans and the gas hot water heater, but still – quiet house sounds. I pad into the kitchen, bleary eyed: These days it seems like it takes longer for my eyes to focus than they did when I was younger. I will turn on the electric kettle and lean against the counter, and perhaps check the headlines on my phone. I make a cup of coffee, and then pad into my office, where I will fire up MS Word and write.

After an hour of writing and coffee I will rustle up some breakfast, and maybe I shower then if I didn’t the night before and my day begins like everyone else’s. But that first hour, alone in a quiet house, is always the best part of my day.

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