One has dreams of being awakened by kind sunlight slowly seeping between curtains while a lovely spring breeze floats in, bringing with it a distant chirp here, a rustling of branches barely starting to get buds there. The grind and creak of the garbage truck, with its metallic squeaking and its engine rumbling, is not the most pastoral sound in the world. At the first groan from metal jaws lifting the metal container that has been overloaded with white, green and black trash bags, the thought that comes to mind is “what time is it?” I didn’t even have to turn around and verbalize this because my handsome husband, sounding like he’d just heard someone say he had to go out and lift the truck with his bare hands, said “it’s way too early. Another hour ’til the alarm goes off.”
Four-thirty a.m. Clank, groan, whirr, squeak and a burst of loud thunder. And welcome to Monday…
I fought the temptation of getting up until I realized how close the lightning was and decided to unplug the computers…TGG’s is on the third floor, mine is in the basement. I made a quick tour of the house and found cats waiting eagerly to be let out. One foot outside made them change their minds so in they came, fast as arrows. By the time I got comfortable and felt ready to drift off again WHEEP WHEEP WHEEP WHEEP, and my husband leapt out of bed more out of habit than a desire to be up and about.
What is it about Monday mornings? No single song about Mondays is happy or encourages one to embrace the beginning of the work week: Manic Monday refers to our desire to go back to Sunday; Monday, Monday tells us that every other day of the week is fine; aside from the part where Brenda Anna Spencer shoots people, we can all agree with the general sentiment of I Don’t Like Mondays. As the adults in the household grudgingly drag their butts down the hallway, a happy giggle and the click of his bedside lamp tell us that J is, of course, finally in his element: a weekday with plenty to do. We exchange glances and, like extras from The Walking Dead who are rehearsing before going in to have their zombie makeup done, we go in search of coffee.
Last night, as I was saying goodnight to J, I realized he’s been chewing on his right thumb. He does this from time to time; it’s almost as if he starts chewing at a little bit of skin that bothers him and decides to keep going. I sat with him and asked if he was worried about something and he lifted his eyes towards me while his teeth nibbled on a piece of skin. “Please, don’t chew your thumb. It’s not good for you.” I cleaned the skin and put two bandaids on just to give him something to work on before going back to flesh. When I came in again about half an hour later, the bandaids were still on and J gave me an offended look that said “you don’t trust me???”
Dada gives him his bath and shave for Sunday night. It’s like taking a car to get detailed. J looked fresh, handsome and shiny when he came out, and he was very proud of himself as we sat there together. Had it not been for nibbling at flesh, it would have been a perfect moment. I went back to the basement where the rest of the male population in our household was watching The Walking Dead. I waited for a commercial to start right after someone got cornered in a camper and the zombies feasted on his flesh. “That’s what J was doing when I went to say goodnight,” I said. “He was in a camper?” TGG asked. I rolled my eyes towards him and my husband looked at me with as much understanding of the statement as TGG had just exhibited. I explained about the thumb-gnawing. Oooooohh! He does that, TGG says; he chews on his thumb. Well, I KNOW, I said…he just seems to have turned an appetizer into a light lunch.
With the same objective tone that mothers use, TGG went through a list of questions: is there blood? Can you see bone? Is he enjoying it a little too much? Has he asked for condiments? The first two questions he got from me; whenever he used to come running with some hyperbolic reaction to a minor incident, I’d go through a similar list: is there blood? Can you see bone? Is the person capable of speaking? Can they move? Can they keep their eyes open? I just figured, I said, I’d let you all know that while you’re down here watching zombies feast of fresh human flesh, your brother is staging a minimalistic version of your Sunday night pastime in his room. I was miffed, but it was mostly because I had just caught myself reacting as TGG and J would have many years ago.
By this morning the bandaids were gone, and J -who had been up in the middle of the night closing his window- showed me he hadn’t nibbled on his thumb again. We got ready for school with Kristy MacColl singing In These Shoes in the background; this is a happier way of starting the week than, say, Fairytale of New York. J, of course, was shimmying around his room, joyfully preparing to depart this place from which the fun seems to be sucked out by the presence of parents. All the way to school, my husband tells me, the radio is blaring and there is deep disappointment when he doesn’t get to finish whatever song he’s rocking to because they’ve arrived at school. “It’s the half-hour of the day when he really likes me,” my husband says, “and then I go ahead and ruin it by getting to where we’re going.” Welcome to the club, I tell him, I am dirt and rocks most of the time and I fritter away my brief popularity by speaking to him!
Between the presence of hot flashes, the children tolerating our presence, the trash truck waking us up (irreversibly, which is the worst part) at 4:30 a.m. and the fact that we now say things like “can you believe the price of butter? This is like the 70s with the price of gas climbing so high!!!,” it’s official… We have turned into our parents, circa the 80s.