The early morning has always been a magical time for me. It started in childhood. Once a year my parents pulled my six sisters and me out of our beds at four a.m. and loaded us, still in our jammies, into the station wagon, seats folded down into a nest of pillows and blankets.
My sisters all went right back to sleep, but I was too excited. I laid there, gazing out the window at the darkness and the occasional headlights, waiting for the sun to rise.
Sunrise meant a stop for breakfast, and wriggling into our clothes. It was usually just after 6:00 a.m. and my dad had a couple of hours of driving under his belt.
Lunch was always eaten in the car – passed from a large bag filled with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or, in my case, butter and jelly sandwiches because I was the only child on the planet who did not like peanut butter (not counting all the kids who are allergic to it), cookies and plums.
Hotel rooms and restaurants could get pretty expensive for a family of nine, so my dad drove straight through. Twenty hours from Detroit to Jacksonville. A quick stop for a fast food dinner, and then tucked into bed at grandma’s house around midnight.
We rented a cabin up north for a week every summer, usually with our cousins. Every morning, a half hour or so before 6:00 a.m, I would hear stirring in the kitchen. My dad, uncle and two male cousins would be making sandwiches, filling thermoses, and eating a quick breakfast before heading out for early morning fishing. I wasn’t allowed to go, it was just for the men, they said. But they couldn’t stop me from peeking out from my bedroom door, watching and listening as they went about their preparations. I’d follow them to the end of the dock, see them off and then go back to bed. Yep, exciting things happen in the hazy up north morning just as the sun comes up.
As a kid I bolted out of bed and threw my clothes on as fast as I could at 6:00 am most Saturday mornings. Because that is when my dad went for a walk. He’d walk two to three miles to his favorite breakfast spot. He was a regular there and people greeted him by name, with cheerful affection, and I was so proud of him for that. He never woke me up to go with him, he never invited me to go with him, but, if I awoke to the sound of him getting ready and threw my clothes on before he could get out the door, he always let me tag along. After breakfast we would take a fresh route home. Even now my heart smiles remembering that early morning bonding with my dad.
It was at 6:00 a.m. that I headed to the hospital for one of life’s most magical adventures. I had gone into labor at 11 p.m., just as I was getting ready for bed. No sleep that night, just timing contractions and wondering when to go in. When I finally arrived at the hospital that early morning, I was greeted with cheerful, open arms. It had been a slow night in the maternity ward, “Come on in, bring your friends,” they said.
Many a magical vacation has commenced at 6:00 am – like the time my friend arrived at my condo, loaded my bike on the roof of his car and we headed to Vermont to ride our bikes all the way through the state, top to bottom. I’ve mentioned that one before.