5:30 am is early. Probably too early. But with three little kids, I seek out pockets of silence. Time where the little ones are asleep and I can do the work of an adult, free from the worries of crying, shouting, giggling that come from my kids, free from the messes, the challenges, the beauties, and the complexities that come with ushering three little breathing, thinking bodies from the wonders of childhood to the less wonderful world of adulthood.
So with the darkness still sitting heavily on the world, I wake. I roll out of bed, thumbing my alarm off. I stumble to the kitchen, often running into a corner or edge of the cabinet, switch on ESPN, pore a bowl of cereal and munch and watch in the dark, my face illuminated by the screen, the volume low, so low as to not wake the wife and three kids. If any one were to wake, this pocket of silence I so cherish would be gone. I would be filling little bowls with Cap’n Crunch and mediating an impeding fight over what to watch on Netflix: Lalaloopsy this time, Maddux, and then we can watch Skylanders Academy next. (Maddux often protests but eventually acquiesces).
By 6:30 I have downed a cup of coffee. The world is still dark and quiet. If it’s a weekday, I hear the school bus rattle by; its incessantly blinking lights light up the kitchen.
I empty the dishwasher. I pile the kid’s plastic forks, knives, spoons, bowls, plates on a towel to dry. I carefully place ceramic bowls and plates into the cabinets. I try to keep the clanging to a minimum.
I empty the dryer. I place the clothes into the ottoman and begin folding.
I open the blinds and look out at our backyard. The sun is still hiding but its forthcoming appearance is evident in the weakening dark. I think of the Gerald Manley Hopkins’s line “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.” I roll the line through my head marveling that I still remember it, especially since I haven’t a clue what it means.
I read my book. With another warm cup of coffee next to me, I read.
I put my book down and listen to the silence. The day feels wide-open, anything is possible. I’m full of optimism.
Now is not the time for music, for talking, for laughing, for crying. Now is the silent time before the rest of time. I feel like an actor waiting backstage for his cue, like a batter waiting on deck, like a yoga practitioner sitting on the mat and waiting for the first position.
Then I hear the water run through the pipes in my house. My wife is awake.
Then I hear my daughter begin to quietly cry. She is awake.
The dominos fall. Into place. The next kid wakes, then the next.
The sun pushes over the tree line.
The neighbors fire up their engines and leave.
The cereal bowls are filled with Cap’n Crunch.
The TV is flipped to Netflix and Lalaloopsy blares.
The kids are quiet, little zombies sitting on the sofa with vacant eyes and disheveled hair.
They place tiny fingers into bowls and then into mouths.
Then the fight over the blanket.
By 8am, I have mediated a fight, cleaned up spilled milk, changed a diaper.
By 8am, I am a parent again. I look out the window at the black-capped chickadees sitting on the feeder. They scurry into the air, taking with them my pocket of silence. They hand it off to another bird, then another, then another until it is halfway around the world and dropped in the lap of a dad in Australia who wakes early before the kids.
In a few short hours he will hand it back over and the birds will carry it back to me tomorrow.