I awoke today in the shadowy dim light of the pre-morning, and as I will, I lingered, to feel my body’s not-yet awakening, its comfort still in the homey impresses of the bed, the dawning recollection of its minor aches while my mind reached weakly, moment by moment, to crawl out of its foggy depths. Call it rest. I do not wake with a yawn and a cheery stretch of the arms.
I linger longer. I reach for my tablet and begin to read. The mind reenters first, only after, the body. I peer with my first weak effort of the day through my cyber portal into the world. But I am still in bed. And in the weak light that is not yet light, an image comes to me, of my mother and father already up, already about the business of the day, the readiness, the chores, the obligations, the work, the doings that must be done.
My parents were not lingerers in the comforts and reluctance of the morning, and their work was not like mine. I read, I write, I create, I teach, I engage the mind. I should hardly call it work, it is so like breathing, necessary and pleasurable as is the fulfillment of any need. It is only that often, after very long days of doing little else, I am fatigued as one is from what we call work.
My parents labored, because the life of the poor, and both were born poor, if it will be more than that, requires labor. Lfe to be a life of value, and ironically, to be a life of deeper pleasure, requires labor. Care for a family requires labor. My parents’ pleasure, less in the work itself, though they had some, was in the laboring. Unlike me, they did not – could not – retire a little longer into the first recesses of the day.
I thought of this perhaps, in my day’s early mind, because Tuesday would have been my mother’s 97th birthday. She died at 88. I imagined her and my father up already for hours, even in the darkness, while I as a child even still slept. I remembered when I was in the latter grades of elementary school. My sister was already married and out of the home. By brother and I were due at school by 8 a.m. We had to wake ourselves, with alarms, because both our mother and father worked in Manhattan and had to travel up to two hours by subway to get there.
Every morning, after we had wrestled ourselves into wakefulness, and washed and dressed and approached the kitchen bleary and dragging, my brother and I would find on the table, prepared by our father, a cup of tea each, covered by aluminum foil held tight by a slender rubber band. On a sandwich plate, for each of us, was a slice of toast already buttered. By the time we reached them, by about 7:15 in the morning each day, the toast was soggy, the tea long cold. We ate and drank while our parents rattled through the subway tunnels of New York.