It’s 5.00a.m. The entr’acte between dusk and dawn. The blanket of the night is peeling away slowly to reveal the glorious shine of the morning Sun. In the biting cold outside, watchmen yawn and stretch before clocking out for their nightshift, they wipe the drool off the sides of their mouth. A few solitary figures slice through the morning mist – there are those who are choiced with the refined routine of a morning jog. And there is the handful of industrious workmen unchoiced with their jog to work. The irony of this infuses the mist as it resumes its cottony suspension behind them. A dog howls in the horizon. Birds chirp then whiz past from the trees above. Crickets say their goodbyes.
Cars snail past in sporadic bursts. Where are they going, is the question. Or rather, where are they coming from?
Dew collects on the spiny blades of grass beside the sidewalk. A lazy drop rolls from the tip and bursts into a thousand little droplets when it reaches the ground. It is these same droplets that will capture the flicker of the sunlight and cause it to glisten across the sidewalk in a soft film.
There’s a sincerity that comes with breaking dawn. A purity to it. Something that comes once, and you look forward to. It’s like that pop sound you hear when you open a fresh bottle of ketchup. You heard it?
In a household somewhere, a mother rouses from her sleep in a fairy-like flutter of her eyelids. She doesn’t need an alarm to alert her that dawn is here. Her body, her mind knows when it’s time to get up. So she gets up when it is time to get up. Only the lazy mother stays in bed a minute more than she needs to, she says. Her husband snores in ever-increasing grunts besides her. As always, he has his nose pointed into the air and his mouth falls sideways as if numbed with a drug. It’s a humorous sight. Not unsightly, but humorous. One which, even after seeing it for over thirty years each morning, still provokes the loving wry smile.
She swings her legs off the covers into the bedroom slippers that wait for her where she left them last night. She pulls on her worn-out blue robe and wraps a leso around her waist. The room is still dark. Yet she operates around with robotic precision, not knocking down the lampshade or knocking her toes against the corner of the trunk that sits at the foot of the bed. She goes into the bathroom and tags at the string to turn on the mini-fluorescent bulb above the mirror.
She washes her face. She gurgles mouthwash. Vaseline for her lips, a habit she picked from her own mother – It’s the most you do for yourself in the morning, she told her – then she leaves her snoring husband in the dark bedroom to the kitchen downstairs.
It’s chilly. She wraps the robe tighter around her.
She could run the mile of the next three hours with her eyes closed because she’s done it for all her seven kids for the past thirty years. Breakfast – tea, fermented brown uji, poached eggs or sausages, oven-toasted bread, and bananas – takes an hour to prepare. She will set the table as her husband hits the shower – she can hear the water running as she scissors those sausages. The girls rouse before the boys. Then there will be a squabble over who goes to the shower first and who needs to hurry up and who needs to get the iron box from Daddy’s room and who wore my P.E t-shirt yesterday and Mummy, have you seen my homework and wake the boys so we don’t get late and be told to kneel infront of the flag pole again. Nothing in these exchanges is unfamiliar to her.
Once breakfast is on the table, she will pack snacks and lunch for the kids and for her husband. And she will line them up in the kitchen in order of age so no one picks anothers. The next forty minutes are about a rackety school of kids as they sit down for breakfast and zigzag the living room and bedroom putting their things together. Someone will cry. Someone will spill tea. Someone won’t find their sweater. Someone wants their yellow scarf for their Brownie’s uniform. Someone will forget to carry their lunch. Someone will have forgotten to finish their homework, so they will sit at the bottom of the stairs trying to control as much damage as they can. And in a very blunt, very dark pencil they will scrawl very illegible, very incorrect figures. Someone will shriek because someone pulled a prank on him and put cold water in his school shoes; his socks are soaked to his ankles, but he’s too harried to change them.
They’ve heard the hoot. That siren. It sounds like the trumpet call to Heaven. The rapture itself. The second coming.
It’s a hoot that says that if you don’t get your skinny ass outside the front door before I am done reversing out the gate, your sorry ass will be left behind. And they will. Because no one wants to find salvation in a slap, not in the morning anyway.
After what seems like an eon, they will pile in Daddy’s blue Peugeot for their drop-off at school.
She will wave them goodbye as she shuts the gate behind them.
She will return to the kitchen and living room to clean up their mess. She will sing to herself as she does this for the next forty minutes. She knows to do this with love because this is what it means to be a momsie.
She will go back to her bedroom upstairs.
She will look in the mirror.
The Vaseline is still on her lips.