Morning Practice

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By zero-dark-thirty, she was already in the pool.

This was the day I was warned about. Nine years ago, when my six-year-old performed the perfect stroke, her coach yelled across the pool deck. “Get ready to get up early, mom. This kid’s gonna be a swimmer.” Everyone likes to hear great things about their kids. Most of us are thrilled when they exhibit athletic prowess, especially at six. I was beyond proud.

What I didn’t understand was the get up early part.

In swimming, hierarchy is built into the schedule. The better you swim, the earlier you have to show up for practice. Today, Cherry graduated from late nights to early mornings. It’s dark at 6:15 a.m. That was the time on the mini van’s dashboard clock when I delivered her to the front door of the natatorium. She got out of the car without saying a word. The sound of silence, if you’ve ever had to wake a teenager from a cozy cocoon so she can dunk her sleep-deprived body in chilled water, is a gift from Heaven. Will she hate it? Will practice be too hard? Cherry has never been a morning person. Will she settle for being average, so she won’t have to get up so early?

An hour and half later, she got back into the car.

“Can I just go to sleep, now?” Then she smiled. “Coach talked for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes that I didn’t have to swim at all.”

“What did he say?”

“Focus on what you’re doing and don’t waste time.”

“For thirty minutes, he said that? Thirty minutes you could’ve been swimming?”

“I know. Right?”

IMG_2502I blew a sigh of relief. She survived the early morning plunge and lived to joke about it. Now, on to biology class. I drove through rush-hour traffic while she put on her makeup and shook out her wet hair.

Today’s milestone is next week’s routine.

Birthday Boy

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Happy Birthday, Bacon. We love you!

We’re celebrating Bacon’s birthday with our family tradition, birthday cake for breakfast. His choice this year, German Chocolate. When your birthday begins with presents and cake, no matter what else happens, you’ve already had a great day.

My mother was the a middle child of ten. With a business to run and a platoon of children, Grandma didn’t have a spare second, but she never forgot a birthday. Every year, my mother looked under her breakfast plate for a special surprise. I can imagine all of my aunts and uncles as children sitting around my Grandma’s battleship-sized dining room table. They’d tell my mom, “Check under your plate.”

IMG_2454Grandma had over thirty grandchildren. On my birthday, I could count on a card from her arriving in the mail, usually with a five dollar bill inside. After Grandma died, my mother found a date book in her belongings. In my Grandma’s cursive next to the days of the year were the names of those she loved. The full pages speak well of her life.The book’s mine now. I love having something of hers that’s so personal.

Our tradition is adapted from my grandma’s card under the breakfast plate. Earlier, when we were out shopping for Bacon’s gifts, my daughters reminded me. “You’re baking tonight, aren’t you? We need birthday cake for breakfast.”

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And yes, my teens complained about this cutie pie photo.

Broken Pottery

Broken Pottery

I owned a set of three decorative pots. My mother bought them in the Rio Grande Valley where my parents lived every winter, after retirement and before my mother became too sick to travel. The pottery hung on our family room wall until last week.

Cherry, my mother’s namesake, plugged her iPhone into a wall outlet; the cord tangled; the sconce above her head tumbled, and the smallest of the three fell and shattered.

When it happened, I felt like I used to feel when I crashed my bike. My mother’s been dead for thirteen years, but she’s in my thoughts all the time. Though, she occupies only a sliver of Cherry’s memory, most of it reinforced by snapshots.

I caught my daughter holding her breath, afraid to exhale.

I braced myself. Then, as if I were sprawled over the asphalt in front of my girlhood home, I stood up and checked the knees and elbows of my subconscious. No scrapes or bruises.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like the pottery anymore, or appreciate my mom, or her memory. I felt something, different. I said, “It’s okay. Now, I can hang something else here.”

Cherry finally exhaled.

I said, “There’s glass on the floor. Put your shoes on.”

That’s the second most common thing mothers say. The first is the warning, “You’re going to put an eye out,” and the third is the reminder, “Drink your milk.”

I swept up the pieces.

I’m looking for something new to hang in that spot.