Betty Duffy

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Failure

I had lunch with my Grandma last week, and talk turned to our morning routines. I told her I had placed a little post-it next to my bed that says “Help me!” so that the first thing I see in the morning is a plea to Heaven. I put it up at the start of Lent, but I have yet to read it because I cannot seem to open my eyes, while still in bed. I sit up, and shuffle to the kitchen, and then slowly open them when I turn on the kitchen light. At that point there is a decision: “Am I going to be awake, or asleep? I cannot be both.” I generally choose to be awake, and begin to make the coffee, so that it’s ready after my shower. Maybe I need to put my post-it over the light-switch.

My Grandma said that when she used to work, she would get up at 5:45 to shower, make her coffee and read the paper before work. When I pictured her in the dark hours of morning with her hair already curled and her steaming mug, and her paper spread out over the table, I thought that maybe there was something elemental to this ritual, something essential to my bloodline that requires it. Coffee and silence in the morning are a multigenerational refuge.

I remember in my school days, being the first to rise, sitting over a bowl of cereal, and not having to speak or listen to anyone for a good half-hour into my day. An old friend used to become very irritable if she had to speak before she drank a glass of orange juice. If the phone rang before she rinsed her mouth out with an acidic beverage, her day was off-kilter.

Having to speak before I’ve had coffee might be one of the most difficult aspects of motherhood for me. The only solution to the problem is to get up earlier, which this little “help me” note was supposed to encourage me to do.

I could never be a give-up-coffee-for-Lent-er, as coffee enables me to do all of my other duties. Laundry alone is an unbearable waste of time. But folding laundry with coffee takes on a leisurely canter. Putting on make-up is an unbearable waste of time. But putting on make-up with a cup of coffee on the bathroom counter suddenly becomes my “morning toilette.” (My husband hates coffee rings on the bathroom counter, and considers the whole business of having beverages in the bathroom terribly unsanitary—but… We disregard the complaint.)

This morning I had the opportunity to wake up at that venerable hour, 5 am, when the dogs started crying, and then the baby started crying, and it occurred to me to go ahead and brew the coffee and just try it; Try five am on for size. But I let the dogs out and nursed the baby back to sleep, and never went near the light-switch, so by default, remained asleep.


Gardenia said...

you may want to consider putting the post it note on the coffee pot. I use -- and have for years -- a little quilted fabric potholder as a coaster for my coffee cup on the bathroom counter. it prevents the coffee ring and also you can put down your coffee cup several times without making a sound -- no waking up that baby while you sip away!

Katie A. said...

I was going to suggest the same thing! A coaster for your coffee. A folded washcloth would achieve the same result.

I'm an early-bird, but mostly because I prefer to get ready at glacial speeds. If I'm out of bed by 6:30, I can be out of the house by 9:30.

Laura said...

Three cheers for coffee. I don't know what I would do without it, either. Do you like fancy creamers and syrups, or do you drink it black? So many ways to enjoy.

Suz said...

At that point there is a decision: “Am I going to be awake, or asleep? I cannot be both.” I generally choose to be awake...

I love this line! Hilarious!

Lauren said...

I'm a tea drinker of the last 6 years (it used to be coffee, but I stopped drinking it when it made my heart race) but it basically has the same importance in my life. Likewise, I cannot give it up for Lent because it allows me to do everything else I do in life with joy. I just had the conversation with my husband that I could deal with pretty much any intolerable situation, any annoyance, any catastrophe, any inconvenience, as long as I knew there was a steady supply of decent tea available. If there's no tea, I don't know... things might get ugly.

I also have the ritual (that I look forward to more than I care to admit) of waking up at 5:45, drinking my tea, eating cereal and reading the paper. Even if I'm running late I manage to do it, because it feels like something I have to do to start my day.

mrsdarwin said...

I wish I could drink coffee -- it seems like a bracing way to start the day. But for whatever reason the caffeine in coffee, unlike that in tea or cocoa, gives me nasty jitters. I guess it keeps me awake, but it's not pretty. About the only time I drink coffee is driving on a long car trip. I do envy people who can drink it easily, though -- my husband can toss off a cup or two right before bed and sleep like a baby.

BettyDuffy said...

Gardenia, post it on coffee pot--very good, and a coaster... I don't know why I never thought of that. My kids have started making those little woven potholders. They'd be perfect.

Laura, my coffee is black, always. It seems like I drank it black to prove a point at one time in my life, and now it's become a habit.

Mrs. D, I guess coffee makes my heart race too, but I do it anyway. It's also made my tastebuds a little dull, but that rather works in my favor since I otherwise have a demanding sweet tooth. I think that after my 4th kid, when I was driving around with a carafe of coffee in my car everywhere I went, the coffee sort of caused some adrenal fatigue, but after the fifth kid it disappeared. Yay.

Oh well, they say it prevents alzheimers--at least the coffee is working for me there.

Dawn Farias said...

It seems like I drank it black to prove a point at one time in my life,

I wonder if that's a bit like why I chose to smoke Marlboro Reds, hard pack, when I was younger.

I like coffee with cream and sugar. Seriously. It gets me out of bed in the morning and to the kitchen table in the afternoon for homeschooling.

Dorian Speed said...

I come from a family of early risers but I am a terrible insomniac, which means my mornings start off later than any reasonable hour and center around the draining of an entire pot of coffee. (A little pot, but still a pot). I drink it with sugar and half-and-half and feel this is a poor reflection on my character.

Every once in a while, I try to reset my internal clock and I love the euphoria that comes with being the first person awake, but then reality sets in around 1:30 and I collapse on the couch while the children...well, I have no idea what the children do when that happens, actually, which is why I try to avoid the whole situation.

JMB said...

Do you have a timer on the coffee pot that will automatically brew coffee at a certain time? I could definately be lurred from sleep by the smell of coffee.... said...

Dorian Speed: LOVE that we both would like to get up early in theory but in practice it just causes more misery. When I had children who slept through the night and got up at a reasonable hour (6:30 or LATER) I would get up and go run at 5:30am. Now, baby number five being five months old and the almost 2 year old deciding that sleeping is overrated, I do my best to find the balance between make coffee (decaf--always--no point upsetting my heart and the babies' sleep patterns) then shower or shower then coffee. Either way I don't get anything worthwhile started before 9am. On a good day. Sometimes never.

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Starrball said...

I have my own version of the post it note-a short list on my desktop, and a day or two after putting it there I stopped noticing it! The background is a picture from adoration... I'm annoyed with myself that I can just ignore it! I actually re-read the list today and noted 2 things I should go do-but 10 minutes later I still haven't gotten to them (though I did leave the computer a few times!)