The alarm clock went off in that annoying way it had, every single morning at 6am. Why was it always 6 am?

I stumbled out of bed to turn it off. I had long since learned that I could not trust myself to have it next to the bed. I careened back to the bed and fell in a lump on my pillow. The drool woke me up again and I faced the inevitable and ambled into the bathroom, then the kitchen. Mercifully, the master of the house had at last figured out the automatic coffee maker. If I could just keep it together long enough in the evening to pour in the water, measure out the beans, grind them and dump; not forgetting to hit the ‘on’ button, I was assured of lifesaving caffeine in the am.

I clutched the first cup to my chest like a new baby and opened the door to the back yard. It was summer and the yard was still cool and invitingly green. The lawn chairs beckoned to me. Chubby, the dog, had gotten up with a big yawn and was taking his morning pee in the bushes. The cats were prowling around looking for big game. Paws, the big cat, sniffed the dog’s pee like it might be interesting. Early summer, the intense Southern California heat had not yet begun so we still had a few coolish days left. The birds were flitting about. All seemed right with the world.

Taking another sip, I wandered back to refill my cup and start my rounds of waking and reawaking the Master and child of the good ship suburbland.

The Master was pretty good, once his feet were actually on the floor. It was but a few moments before the big red bathrobe I got him one Christmas was tied around his skinny waist and he was slouching into the shower.  I could hear hot water pelting down. By the time he was out of the shower and on his second cup of coffee, he was almost speaking.

Getting the princess up and moving out of lavender kingdom was another matter. It could easily take five trips to wake and then reawake her highness and position her into an upright state. She had to be tempted with food to actually get moving. It might have been a Coco Puffs morning or perhaps a cinnamon oatmeal day; these things run together.

Whichever, I had learned to do breakfast first and dressing second so that we didn’t have to dress two times in one morning on account of spills.

The Master and commander was showered and dressed and sitting down to eat and shooting an impatient look at the princess.

“If I have to drive her to school, why can’t she get her clothes on first?”

Actually, a logical question.

“Lee, I think we have discussed this before,” I said in my smiley voice, “too many spills cause us to have to dress all over again. Remember?”

The princess was busy intently studying the back of the cereal box, trying to figure out how to get the prize, not paying too much attention to us.

“Mommy, I don’t see how you can get the parrot from this game.  Do they just send you the parrot in a box by mail? How do they breath?” The princess wanted to know

“Darling, I am not sure that it is a real parrot.  Maybe a toy one is what you win.”

“Oh, that’s no good,” Princess Scooter answered, “I only want it if it’s a real one”

“Ah,” I answered sagely.

“It could keep Chubby company,” she told me brightly.

“I think Chubby has lots of company with the two cats,” I replied.

“Yeah, but cats can’t fly,” she told me wisely.

The Master muttered something about how he could certainly make a cat fly and would too if that cat brought one more GD bird into this house.

“Ok,” I said hurriedly, “it’s about time to go Scooter, let’s go get your clothes on.”

Of course, ‘getting your clothes on’ was a process much easier said than done.

The teachers at Scooter’s school told me to have her pick out the maximum of three outfits the night before to reduce the morning fashion crisis.

This worked, sort of, if I locked and bolted the closet door so that she couldn’t get ‘one more thing’ out of there that had to be added to the ensemble. My current ploy was to quickly make her bed and plop the outfits in a row, blocking eye contact to the closet.

Making a choice between the three could sometimes be a grinding chore and some days easy. Usually those days were the ones were she wore the same outfit over and over again. Not so great for total cleanliness, but it did cut down the decision making time.

Years later I worked with a guy who, I realized with some surprise, wore exactly the same pair of pants and the same shirt to work every day. The next week, he changed the shirt and pants, wore those all week, then repeated the process the next week.  At first I was prompted to say something to him and stopped myself. “He has a system,” I told myself and in fact he had.

Anyway, garments on the body, books in the backpack; lunch in the lunch pail, wagon train ho! The Master and princess were off to another full-filled day. I was left to run around like a crazy person, stuffing dishes into the dishwasher and getting my clothes on.

Since most attorney offices didn’t get going until 10 am, I usually had enough time to pull it together with some reasonable organization and hit the freeway crawl with all the other commuters. I worked for Universal Insurance Company. My job was to meet and greet the clients in the flashy, expensive offices of their flashy, expensive attorneys who all had perfectly tailored suits and perfect orthodontia work.

The work was not super hard but with the Los Angeles freeway grind, a girl could get pretty tired at the end of the day. You can swear at just so many people behind the wheel of the car before it stops being fun.  

This day was particularly long and dusty and I had to drive from Redondo Beach back to the San Fernando Valley and was bushed.

Continued in Part II