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.

Random politeness on the sidewalk


This morning there were noticeably fewer people walking from the subway to their downtown offices, so I was able to stroll down the middle of the sidewalk. Coming toward me from the other direction was a pigeon, also walking down the middle of the sidewalk. I nodded and stepped to the left. The pigeon bobbed its head and stepped to the right. We passed each other with no problem.

27 November 2019

Random highlight from a conversation with a four-year-old who wanted to stand on the subway rather than sit in the empty seat, who was on his way to school, and who enjoys playing with his best friend, Christian


Boy: My mom gets off after we stop at the bridge. Do you see my mom on the way to work every day?
Me: Not every day, but sometimes.
Boy: My dad is bigger than my Mom.
Me: Why do you think that is?
Boy: Well, my mom is big, but my dad is bigger. (Pauses, shuffles feet and moves fingers to some song no one else can hear.) My dad doesn’t wear pajamas.

Random Toddler Experience on the Subway today

A young father with a daughter in a stroller joined me in the elevator down to the train. We said good morning. When I asked the little girl if she was enjoying her Cheerios she looked me straight in the eyes and then looked away silently. When I told her that Cheerios is my favorite cereal, she looked me straight in the eyes and then looked away silently. As the elevator stopped and the door opened, I told her and her dad that I hope they have a good day. She looked me straight in the eyes and then looked away silently. When her father started to back out of the elevator the toddler lifted one hand from the little cup holding her cereal and started shouting at me as loudly as she could, “Bye-bye. Bye-bye.”