Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

“No! No! No! No! No! No! I don’t wike it!”

It wasn’t clear what June didn’t like. Possibly it was just being awake. When Noah was June’s age, his unvarying morning greeting to us was “Happy day!” even on mornings when he’d slept poorly or was so sick he could barely croak out the words. Now June does not have her brother’s sunny disposition. I have to say, though, I understand her better. My thoughts on waking most mornings are more along the lines of “No! No! No!” than “Happy day!” This morning, though, something felt different.

I reached for the light on my alarm clock and was surprised to see it was 7:00 a.m. already. Then I noticed Beth was not in the bed with us. Either June and I had slept through Noah waking and fetching Beth for their traditional early morning routine of reading and games, or it was one of the rare days Beth has to go wake him so he’d be ready for school in time. I’d gone to bed at 9:00 the night before and had been asleep by 9:30. June had only woken me twice (as opposed to the five to six times she’d been up the night before). I felt an unfamiliar, but pleasant sensation. I was rested.

After a quick nursing and a few books, June was in better spirits. We ventured out to the kitchen for breakfast. June, who rarely eats much in the morning, picked at her breakfast, then she wanted out of her high chair. I ate my raisin bran and perused the paper with June in my lap. Across the table, Noah was happily working on an experiment from the Magic Science kit he got for Christmas (www.amazon.com/Scientific-Explorers-Magic-Science-Wizards/dp/B000NQMAFO). Suddenly he burst into tears. He’d put the powder into the wrong test tube. The leftover solution from yesterday’s potion was bubbling anew. Noah sobbed, “I did the wrong thing!” He’s a cheerful boy, my Noah bear, but he’s also easily upset.

Beth rushed to his side, sat down and pulled him up into her lap. We tried to reason with him. There was plenty of powder left; he could just start over with the right test tube. “But I can’t make it like it was before!” he wailed, meaning the old solution.

“Noah,” Beth said, trying to sound awed. “You made your old potion bubble again! You are such a powerful wizard.” Noah wasn’t buying it. Then Beth told him how I’d mentioned to her that of the two potions he made the day before (a fast bubbling one made with hot water, baking soda and citric acid and a slow bubbling one made with the same ingredients but ice water instead of hot water), the slow one was still fizzing past lunchtime. He perked up a bit and showed some interest. Beth kept talking until he was calmed down and had agreed to resume mixing his glow-in-the-dark solution. Soon he was deep in concentration, measuring zinc sulfide and pouring it into the tube.

After Beth and Noah had left for work and school, June and I got ready to go to Circle Time at the library. We made a detour to stop at Savory (www.savorycafe.com/) for a vanilla chai, my new favorite drink there, and then we set off for the library. I felt energized and cheerful as I pushed the stroller along Park Avenue and admired its graceful Victorian homes. The name of the street (not Park Place but close enough) reminded me of the online Monopoly game I’ve been playing with Noah and I found myself wondering when we’d get back to it and looking forward to it. One of the rewards of parenting a school-age child is that he’s getting old enough to play games that are actually fun. The day was sunny and unseasonably warm, which no doubt contributed to my good mood. Mostly, though, I think it was getting close to enough sleep. The sad thing was, it wasn’t even what I would have called a really good night’s sleep pre-kids, since I’d been awoken twice, but my standards have shifted radically.

When we reached the Children’s Room of the Takoma Park library (www.takomapark.info/library/), a wide smile spread across June’s face and she began to wiggle in the stroller. We’ve only been going to Circle Time regularly for about a month but June just loves it. While we’re there she sits quietly on my lap and never sings or does the hand motions to any of the songs, but she watches intently and memorizes what she sees. At home, I am always hearing little snatches of library songs and catching her doing the motions as she sings. Because I know she’s watching me, when we are there I touch my head, shoulders, knees and toes in the required places in the song and I put my arms up over my head with my fingers tented to make a rocket ship as we sing “Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! We’re Going to the Moon” even though this kind of participation makes me acutely self-conscious. Today, though, I found I really didn’t mind. I didn’t feel silly. I just did it. It was even a little bit fun. When the librarian launched into “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!” I had to agree.

After Circle Time was over, I wondered if we should walk home. It was past ten-thirty, so there was a real risk June would fall asleep in the stroller and I would miss the opportunity to work during part of her nap, but the day was so lovely I decided to chance it. If she got drowsy, I could always stop at a bus stop, wake her and wait for a bus. As we passed the mid-way point of our walk home, June was kicking her legs enthusiastically and singing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” As we crossed the newly reconstructed footbridge over Sligo Creek, she was belting out “Jingle Bells.” As I mounted the long, steep hill of the hospital campus, she fell silent. I peeked at her. She was looking a little sleepy, but we were pretty close to home. I walked up the hill as fast as I could, amazed at how much easier the climb seemed than usual.

We made it home with June still awake. I walked through the front door, really smelling the sharp, sweet pine scent of our wreath for the first time in weeks. I’d told Beth the day before we should take the wreath and the twinkling snowflake porch lights down. Now I was reconsidering.

I went straight to the bathroom. When I came out I regarded the house, thinking about the load of clean, unfolded laundry in a basket on my bedroom floor, the second load sitting in the dryer, the dishwasher full of clean dishes and the piles of dirty dishes from dinner and breakfast on the counter. Then I glanced at the indoor/outdoor thermometer. It was 62 degrees outside on this Tuesday morning in the first full week of January 2008. I decided to take June back outside to play.