Random Family Memory: Mom’s Alarm Clock

As far back as I can remember, my parents’ alarm clock was displayed front and center on top of the television in the living room.  At the end of every evening no matter how angry my parents were at each other, my mother would rise from her chair, pull the switch on the back of clock, then stroll over to kiss my father good night.  She told me over and over, and long before I ever asked, that they had agreed they would end the day with a kiss no matter what the day had been like or how they felt about each other in the moment.

Come 5:30 in morning that alarm clock would go off.  My mother would leap from their bed in a confused panic, realize that the alarm in the living room was ringing, and run down the hall into the living room to shut it off.  Every morning: thud, thud, thud, swear, thud, thud. If she hadn’t tossed on her bathrobe, she would go back into the bedroom to get her bathrobe. If she had, she would sigh audibly, catch her breath, then go into the kitchen to make black coffee and four pieces of toast for my father before waking him up.

After I was grown and married my husband complained because I wasn’t waking him up early enough in the mornings.  H1 insisted that I was responsible for waking him up because I was his wife and told me that I had to do better.  I tried leaning into the problem: at first, making it an intimate joke between us for a while, then I began flipping on every single light in the house and playing the stereo. Eventually, I simply grabbed him by the ankles, hauled him out of bed onto the floor, and dragged him to the bathroom.  He wasn’t happy with that solution.

I took the problem to my mother who empathized completely. She told me that she had the same problem as a newlywed, then she explained to me, for the first time in my entire life, the reason she kept the alarm clock in the living room.  If it were beside the bed, she would turn it off and go back to sleep, causing my father to be late for work.  She tried turning up the volume. She tried putting the alarm clock on a metal pie tin so the sound would echo.  Neither worked. That’s when she put it in a completely different room so it would force her to get out of bed to turn it off.  My father came into the room at the end of the conversation and agreed that my mother’s solution was the best.

I drove home with that conversation on my mind, turned over everything she’d suggested, and thought also about what I’d witnessed for myself while growing up. Did I move the alarm clock to a different room? Of course not. I told H1 to get his own ass of bed in the morning.

Anno Domini Nostri Jesu Christi

(but sharing a bowl of hot porridge with whomever comes)

For sixty-five times, that I’m sure about anyway,
this earth has made it all the way to the back of the sun and returned.
Sixty-five times, that I’ve seen for myself, and other,
reliable sources say it has done the very same thing for eons,
millennia piled against millennia. Not
technically, scientifically forever, but as forever and always as matters
to the gnats of humanity that we actually are. It’s ridiculous
to suggest that I cannot imagine a time when it wouldn’t.
If it didn’t then yes, certainly, I wouldn’t imagine it.
None of us would. This dark morning
I’ve opened the window blinds, pulled back every curtain,
and stand with my palms pressed
around a chipped, rinsed-out-not-washed mug
brimming with a coffee of elixirs and promises.
The red plaid robe I couldn’t throw away when my mother died
is knotted sloppily at my waist, mended one more time
where my fingertips wear through the flannel.
This is the second night in the same sweatpants,
and even the family dog has declined to join me so early. Still,
I face east like a prayer,
anticipating, hoping, depending
on one more new year. One more benchmark
of what we’ve been, where we’re going,
and who we are.

©2021 Vera S. Scott