The silence wakes me.
Not a whisper. Not a murmur. No ever-growing feet pounding down the stairs. No 7am yells of “jerk, that’s mine.” No muffled electronic music from the Nintendo DS. What is it they play? Smash-something?
The TV sits black and silent. The remote untouched since yesterday. Neat and aligned on the kitchen counter, right where I placed it before I went to bed last night. It’s not often I get to see it, let alone set it somewhere. It’s the hottest item in the house, the “merote.” Whoever holds it possesses those invincible powers of channel control. Powers not to be taken lightly. The fun teen mishaps on the Disney channel can ruin ones day if it’s the darkness of “Gotham” they desire.
So they hang on to that remote because really their happiness depends on it. Or they hide it amongst the stale chip crumbs and candy wrappers under the bouncy cushions of the sofa. And then pretend they don’t know where it is. So we’re stuck with Cartoon Network. Ninjago forever. There’s yelling. And wrestling. And my bedroom is directly above the playroom, so it’s not only Sensei Wu’s creepy Lego voice coloring my serene Saturday morning dreams, it’s also relentless cries of “Give it” punctured with an occasional “Ow” (is there anything more ear-shattering than the low foghorn of a newly-deepened teenage boy voice?). All before 7.09am. Most Saturdays.
But this morning all was still. The remote benignly in plain sight, powerless as it should be.
And I am up before 7.09am.
Even though there’s no yelling. No fighting. No noise. No extra-loud “Good morning, Mom” to retrieve the iPad in stealth. And definitely no wet kiss on my sleepy cheek.
We are half this week. One dad, two bigs away doing adventurous boy things: planes, trains, rugby and rain. One mom, two littles at home doing not that much: cousins, beach, classic movies like “Annie” and “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
The quiet is welcome. The kitchen stays clean. The laundry basket is barely full and there is no room for yesterday’s leftover pizza in the suddenly too full fridge. We never have leftovers. Nobody nags for a friend to come over or to go to Target or leaves wet towels on the carpet. Instead of no I say yes: to ice cream, to staying up late, to overpriced magnets at Fisherman’s Wharf. “You’re the best mommy ever,” they chirp with their arms around each other.
But we are half. And what I am is some kind of half-mommy. While less of them should mean more of me, we are incomplete. And so am I.
It is calm and neat and the washing machine is at rest. But the quiet is strange. Uncomfortable. This is not who we are, half of ourselves. Half the conversations, half the laughter, 50 per cent less awkward hugs and sloppy kisses, way less muddy clothes sweaty from intense hide-and-seek in the backyard. Too many leftovers.
I talk and write about my family chaos a lot. How I long for it to be a little quieter. Not so hectic. How I wish there were less groceries, less shoes, less dentist appointments and haircuts. More room, more time for thoughts and words and yes instead of no.
But that would make us not us.
The weak early morning sunrays reflect off the dull silver of the remote. It waits, untouched. When I open the fridge the pizza box slides out from its precarious spot, squeezed above the unopened gallons of milk. It lands on the floor with a loud thwack that echoes around the empty kitchen.
Only one more night of leftovers.