There is a particular kind of blessing that comes with waking up early. When I was a child, it used to amaze me that every time I visited my Grandmother D, she would announce that it was time for bed sometime around 9 p.m. and then… then she would proceed to tuck herself into her big, lush bed right alongside me with every intention of going to sleep.
It boggled the mind.
Grownups were supposed to stay up late, after all. That was the pattern I had grown up with and that was the pattern I knew best.
The littlest kids went to bed first. Then me, after homework was done and often after having helped my parents for a bit with the printing business they ran from our basement. But inevitably, having banished me to my gabled bedroom where the lilacs brushed against the window and perfumed the air the entire month of June, they would vanish into the depths of the house and start up the presses whose clickity-clack would echo up through the vents and lull me gradually to sleep.
It wasn’t unusual for them to work until quite late at night. It wasn’t all that unusual for them to work until 1 o’clock in the morning, either. And then, in the morning, there would be stacks of boxes full of inky-fresh paper or staple-bound books or, my favourite, little custom-made pads held together on one side by the stinkiest of all stinky glues, rubber cement.
So when Grandmother D would crawl into her big bed piled high with pillows and comforters mere moments after the sun had drifted out of sight… it was unusual, to say the least.
But Grandmother D knew a secret. She knew that if you went to bed before 10 o’clock, you could more easily wake up at 5. And that at 5 o’clock in the morning, you can sip a cup of tea from a delicately handpainted teacup while watching the last few tomcats slink their way home. You can rub the sleep out of your eyes while listening to the birds say hello. And you can find 4-leaf clovers from the patch outside your door while they are still covered with the morning dew, soaking the toes of your slippers and the hem of your housecoat.
It was, to her way of thinking, a most civilized way to start the day.
When K was first born, he was by nature an early riser. He would wake around 5 o’clock, nurse for a bit, and by 5:30, he was ready for the day to begin in earnest. As new parents, we were not all that impressed with such an early-rising child. In fact, we rather resented the fact that after going to bed at 11, K would wake us at 1 o’clock, and at 3 o’clock, and then be up for the day shortly after 5.
To say it took some getting used to would be an understatement.
And yet, I find myself gravitating towards that very same schedule lately. Now that my children tend to sleep at least until 6:30 or 7:00, you might think I would enjoy a little sleeping in, but like my grandmother always did, I often find myself waking some time around 5 a.m. of late and just enjoying a few minutes of listening to the quiet all around me.
Sometimes, like this morning, I get up and work out and shower and eat long before anyone else is awake. Other mornings, I listen quietly for a bit, think about the day ahead, then burrow back under the covers, snug up against The Man We Call Dad, and sleep some more until 6:30 or 7:00.
But no matter which way I choose to start my day, I have discovered that the little bit of silence at 5 o’clock in the morning brings with it a blessing of peacefulness that rests solidly in my heart for the rest of the day.