Early On


This guy and I learned early on that the longevity of our marriage was going to depend upon the two of us NOT getting out of bed at the same time in the morning.

See, we both wake up just a tiny bit mean.  I’ll readily admit it:  I’ve got a little bit of mean girl in me.  I try to keep her inside, but she’s frisky in the morning.  Beau, the gentler of the two of us, doesn’t get mean unless he’s backed in a corner.  And I like to back people in corners in the early morning.

Then there is the problem of our two different speeds:

I personally hit the ground running, ready to whip the world into shape and push my agenda through to accomplish my plans for the day and for all of eternity.  I roll out of bed making lists in my head.  I efficiently put together a delicious hot drink.  I often shower first thing, often put together a blog in my mind while I’m shampooing, and I always get dressed for the day either within moments of waking or within moments of stepping out of the shower.  I stand ready to incinerate any sound that threatens to wake my sleeping children before I have enjoyed several long moments of peace at my desk.

Beau, on the other hand, is a snoozer.  He does not seem to believe that a troubling character weakness is revealed in his ability to sleep through a screaming alarm clock for 5, even 10 minutes at a time; he is an unabashed snooze-button-hitter.  Once he does stumble out of bed, he pulls on shorts or sweats (to me a wasted step when one ought to be getting right into his work clothes) and stumbles out to the recliner, where he will often nod off yet again.  Once he wakes for good, he checks the weather forecast through every portal he can think of.  Out in the kitchen, he makes weird things to eat, like pickle-and-peanut-butter sandwiches.  (Just kidding on that part.  There’s nothing that weird going on here.)  He avoids conversations wherein he and I make plans to take over the world; instead, in the early morning, he prefers to chat on inconsequential, silly subjects.

He has always insisted that the house should be warm enough when he wakes that he can lounge comfortably in his underwear.

I, of course, prefer to sleep in a cool room.

As with all areas of life here at the Blake house, we have kept ourselves young (or maybe made ourselves old?) by refusing to adhere to a schedule.  There is no set bedtime here.  There is no set wake time here.  Our lives bend with the seasons.  When there is a tiny Blake baby in our house, for instance, I am likely to sleep in as long as my kids will allow — to turn on a cartoon for the big kids, even, so I can stay in bed a few more minutes.  But in the month before our ranch rodeo every year, I rise earlier and earlier — 4 a.m., 3 a.m., even 2 a.m. — in order to pound out all the paperwork I think I need to get done before showtime.  Though I am not naturally an early riser, I find that in this mommy-hood stage of my life my heart yearns for quiet time to sit at my desk — and the only time that sort of thing is happening around here is while my kids are asleep.  A couple years ago I gave up on staying up really late to do desk work, figuring it’s a little more adult to rise really early than stay up really late.  So these days I actually look forward to being awake at that early hour, when there’s no one here but me.  Yes, though I never dreamed it would turn out like this, I’ve become one of those crazy people whose favorite time of day is before sunrise, when I have time to sit in my desk chair and do my own thing — no baby to entertain, no 6-year-old questions to answer, no 4-year-old guilting me into playing wooden dolls with soulful gray eyes that say I won’t be little for long, no husband concocting strange edible creations outside my supervision.

… Because if I’m up early, my dearly betrothed is either still asleep or already out the door.  Despite all my teasing, there are surely seasons of the year when he is consistently starting his work day by 4 a.m.  In the springtime, when there are thousands of calves to be branded around here, he doesn’t allow himself the luxuries of snooze-button-hitting and underwear-lounging; he gets himself up and gets out the door as quietly as possible.  (Swan — our cowboy.  Our hero.)  Same thing in the fall, when those thousands of calves are weaned from their mothers and brought into the feedlot here.  There are trailer tracks to make and pony tracks to make and supplies to prepare and coworkers to organize, and he is good at his work, and so he rises early when he needs to.

But this time of year — late December, January, February — is the quietest time for us.  The cows are all settled in their winter pastures; the camp guys see that they’re fed.  The calves in the feedlot have, for the most part, worked out their bugs and don’t require as much attention as they did fresh-weaned.  The freezing temperatures have by now ground the PV world not to a halt but definitely into first gear.  And that means the crew doesn’t start the day’s work until 7 a.m., and usually the day’s work consists of nothing so essential as roping and riding, but instead mechanicing and water-checking and paperwork.

Which means Beau’s alarm goes off at 6 a.m. today.  He hits the snooze button every 7 minutes until approximately 6:35.  He trips out to the recliner, pulling on long johns as he goes; he often steps on a pile of Legos or runs smack into an open dresser drawer or knocks a flashlight from its perch and in his half-asleep condition all but wakes our three kids.  In the recliner, he uses the remote to flip between three different movies he’s seen a thousand times.  With his iPhone he checks the weather.  Then he comes into the kitchen, buttoning his jeans as he arrives.  He rustles in the pantry for a handful of pecans.  Then he goes back and rustles around for a handful of almonds.  Then he goes back into the pantry and retrieves the Life cereal, which he eats over a cupful of Greek yogurt.  Creeeeeek, rustle, wooooosh, snap, plop, rustle, crunch.  Once the yogurt is gone, he rummages around in the porch and throws a mountain of coats, scarves, gloves, and boots into the kitchen to warm up.  Next, he piles on layers and layers of winter wear.  While he does, he chats randomly about contradictory weather forecasts (Really?  Such a surprise!), the number of times he woke in the night, and the pulled muscle in his left butt cheek/little finger/big toe.  Then, at 7:02, he takes a deep breath and heads out the door.

Thirteen years into our marriage, because I am busy making plans to conquer the world and incinerate bystanders, I just ignore him in the mornings.  I just sit at my desk here and write.  Because I know, by this point, that if I open my mouth, something damaging is likely to come out.  Also that I’m never going to change him into a morning person.  And also because I know that, as soon as that door clicks shut behind him… all three of the kids are going to wake up.

© Tami Blake

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