Eat, Read, Sleep


As children, my eldest brother and I spent our summer vacations at home (we refused to go to camp).  Everyday, with the exception of trips and weekends, we had the same morning routine:  deliver the newspapers (he and I had a newspaper route), eat breakfast, complete morning chores (make our beds, freshen up, walk the dog, and tidy the kitchen), and help our mother water her garden.  All of these tasks were completed by 10am each morning, rain or shine.

10am = freedom!  My brother and I loved to play outside with the kids in the neighborhood.  We played dodge ball, freeze tag, wiffle ball, told "yo' mamma" jokes, and rode our bikes. At exactly 5 minutes to 12 (11:55am) my mother hollered that we had 5 minutes to be in the house.  If not, no outside for the remainder of the day!  We respected the warning.  And as soon as we got in the house, the ice cream truck would make its 1st visit of the day to our block (that's how we refer to streets in NYC)!  Sadly, we were not allowed to have ice cream before lunch!  How ironic...

During lunchtime, my brother and I plotted ways to change the afternoon schedule but we never had the courage to execute any of our silly ideas.  You see, our summer afternoon schedule was absolute torture to us, but not my mother!  She was faithful to it:  12pm = eat, 12:30pm = clean-up, 1pm = read (in your own room), and 2pm = one hour nap. In reality this was her way to get time to herself (she loved her soap operas):  12pm = daily call with her father, 12:45pm = our dad called home to "check on us" (aka what's for dinner), 1pm = All My Children, 2pm = One Life To Live, and 3pm = wake the kids up.

Each day I laid across my bed and wondered what kind of mother would make her kids eat lunch, read, AND take a nap during summer vacation!!!  Good gravy, we were 10 and 11 years old!  We wanted to play outside all day long!!!  So, I did what I felt was appropriate.  I cried, read my book upside down, took endless trips to the bathroom, talked to my imaginary sister, wished to play with the kids who were lucky enough to still be outside, and stared at my ceiling.  Meanwhile, my brother quietly read his book and often times warned me that I was going to ruin the rest of the day for the both of us. 

By the beginning of every July (thank you Mommy, for being patient), my brother and I looked forward to "afternoons in our rooms".  We raced through lunch so that we could get to our books faster.  Most times we read instead of napping.  The sounds from the kids outside playing grew more, and more faint.  At 3 o'clock, while most of them clamored to be first in line at the ice cream truck (Mr. Softee and The Good Humor truck were relentless), my brother and I struggled to wait our turn to tell Mom about the exciting story that we had just read.  It was a situation if she showed more interest in one and not the other!  

Thunderstorms were the only forces powerful enough to interfere with our routine.  We feared them, especially my mother!  She'd turn off all of the lights in the house, unplug all of the electrical outlets- except the refrigerator, and close all of the windows and shades.  The four of us (Brother #2 was a baby) would then scurry into my brother's toy closet (it was the only closet away from a window).  In the midst of the thunderstorm my mother read the most amazing books to us (The Indian In The Cupboard was my favorite) with the assistance of a flash light.  We rested our sweaty heads on each of her shoulders and listened as her voice calmed the storm.  Sometimes she read an entire book and other times she saved the page until the next thunderstorm.  Either way, the story helped us to forget about all that was happening outside of that closet.

Looking back, I realize that my mother did her best to make our summers special and educational.  What was torture for us was actually a development of life-learning skills: literacy and imagination.  She removed us from the influences of outside world and allowed us to explore new ones within the pages of our books.  Each time we finished a book, she surprised us with another.  So, thank you, Mommy, for planting the seeds of literacy and imagination.  And thank you, Brother #1 and #2, for those special memories.  

Sincerely, G.