Just Another Day
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most pleasant person in the morning. I prefer to wake gently with the soft, warm light of morning casting long shadows across the room. An alarm clock is like a bomb going off, warranting the necessary counter-measures–call the bomb squad, disarm and destroy.
And I am a coffee snob. Not just any coffee, but dark, industrial strength, rich, black coffee–the kind of coffee in which you can stand a spoon. Not watered-down coffee that is the color of tea and tastes like dirty water, which ninety-nine percent of Americans consider great coffee. Without it, I would collapse to the floor, mumbling. If you speak to me before noon, the most you can expect is a scowl or a glare. The darkness in my brain needs time to give way to the light of day. Very slowly, I join the living.
I am not a morning person. As a child, I dreaded mornings more than dentist trips or vacation bible school. I still struggle to wake up every single day.
I liked returning to school yearly; I didn’t like the staying part. I could render all kinds of illnesses on demand; a fever, a headache–easiest of all, a stomach ache. Each was designed to deceive my incredibly naive mother to allow me to stay home. “Okay, honey, just this once,” was her predictable response, and I would stay home and watch “Bewitched,” or the “Munster’s,” my favorite television show. I would practice my spells and secretly hex each family member with the incantations I had learned.
After breakfast, I watched Password, followed by a lunch of chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. I always enjoyed the old black-and-white family shows from the fifties that played most of the afternoon–before the cartoons–where women did their housework in dresses with aprons and wore high-heeled shoes. The mother would always greet the husband with a drink and a peck on the cheek when he arrived home after a hard day at work. Her heartfelt platitudes: “How was your day…” and “…yes, dear.” The children would greet their father respectfully. I always imagined that kind of life–I wanted that life.
Instead, I was being raised by wolves. I imagined myself to be something purebred, unique, and expensive.
“Where did you come from?” my mother would ask. I was nothing like my parents, brother, or older sister. I was the youngest, and they often joked that I was adopted. I hoped they were right. We had little in common, probably not even our genes. They wanted to be outdoors camping, swimming in dirty water, sweating, swatting mosquitos, and being in the wild, in the sun. After all, we weren’t being raised by wolves, or maybe we were.
“Can we go home now?” I would plead moments before we arrived. I didn’t much like spending time with them; I am sure they felt the same about me.
“We just got here, Griffin,” my mother would say. “We’ll go home in a little while, okay?”
“But it’s hot and dirty; I want to go home now!” I would demand. Eventually, they would give in, and we would leave before I got sick and threw up or, worse, got burned by the sun.
“Why don’t we just leave him at home?” My brother would say.
“He’s too young to be left at home alone,” my mother said as she secretly wished I was older so I could be left home alone.
School seemed fun at first; the new school supplies, the fresh smell of newly sharpened Big Red pencils, a new cartoon Batman or Spiderman lunchbox–to be honest, I preferred Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo. My new clothes, each carefully selected from the Sears or JCPenney catalog–years before I had a credit card and proper shopping skills. We weren’t wealthy, but I never suffered the humiliation of hand-me-downs and left the house in proper attire. Besides, my brother, while older, was always shorter than me, so his clothes would not fit. I coveted some of my sisters’ dresses but didn’t need that added attention at school. It was enough to dodge Bobby Pruit, the third-grade bully.
Well-dressed, I couldn’t be expected to go outdoors during recess, get dirt on my clean khakis and pressed white shirt, or get sweaty like stinky Bobby, who never bathed and smelled like sweat and sour milk.
In time, I would train each new teacher to allow me to stay inside during recess to organize the art supplies or clean the chalkboard with that sweet aromatic cleaner that smelled of lilac and coconut. If no cleaning was needed, I would read my ever-growing collection of paperback books: The Old Man and the Sea, Whit Fang, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, or The Time Machine. I preferred the classics and loathed comic books. I loved reading–anything to avoid the sun, the heat, the sweat, and the torment of other little boys and escape the reality of growing up in a place where I clearly didn’t belong.
School was tiresome. The teachers were stupid and controlling and tried to act like parents–making you sit still, tie your shoelaces, and not speak unless spoken to. Ms. Byler and Ms. Ellis, my first and second-grade teachers were partial to me and easily trained. The alternative for them was hours of my whining and generally being disruptive. Ms. Eckhart, my third-grade teacher, was wise to the antics of manipulative small boys.
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