The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

Fooling Charlie by Christy Wise

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This morning I woke to the music of the clock radio as I did several years ago – B.C. (Before Children). I lay in bed with gray dawn light filtering in the windows to my left and my husband buried under covers to my right. Not even his nose poked out.

Shadow, the dog, got up and ambled over to nuzzle my hand with her cold nose, hoping for breakfast. Even if the disc jockey is the only one up, Shadow’s ever optimistic. My husband leapt out of our waterbed, punched the snooze button and jumped back under the warmth of the quilt, causing a minor tidal wave.

It’s late, I realize. It’s already light out. By this time every other morning, Charlie has called out. One of us groggily gets him from his crib next door and brings him to our bed, hoping futilely that he’ll be soothed back to sleep by our warmth and by the waterbed’s gentle swaying. What rational 15-month old wouldn’t want to be cuddled by his parents? His three-year-old sister loved it at his age, now alone in her bed. Well, alone if you are counting humans. She certainly has company from her stuffed leopard, tiger, dog, rabbit, elephant, and Baby Bear.

But Charlie won’t be soothed by warmth and rocking. He wiggles up and out of the covers immediately, backs over the side of the bed and calls out in strong voice: “Shadow.” “Daddy.” “Dog.” “Book.”  The latter serves as an early warning before the book hits one’s head. I scratch around for my glasses, fumble for the light and open the book while he commands “Book, book, book.” The day begins abruptly and it takes me another hour or so to catch up to it.

But this morning, the first morning of the end of daylight savings, we fooled Charlie. We were up before he was, free to rise at our own pace, in the quiet of our own thoughts, humming whatever tune came across the radio waves.

After the snooze ended and two restful songs were followed by jarring advertisements, I said, “I think I’ll get up.”

“And turn that noise off,” replied the voice under the covers.

“With pleasure.”

Shadow and I walked downstairs where I opened a can of dog food and fed her, taking my time in the peace of the kitchen. I pulled out some coffee beans, put them in the grinder and started the flame under the tea kettle. Shadow’s chewing and the grinder’s whirr were the only sounds I heard. I’d forgotten what it was like to have such quiet at the start of the day.

“Wow, I think I even have time to read the front page of the newspaper,” I thought as I headed for the front porch.

And the day began the way it used to, just three years ago in a different house with a different dog but in what seemed like another lifetime.


Christy WiseChristy Wise is author of “A Mouthful of Rivets: Women at Work in World War II.” Her essays are published in numerous literary magazines including Concho River Review, Bayou Magazine, O!Tempora and Spot Lit(erary) Mag(azine). Her essay “Memory Book,” published in Bayou 51, was selected as a “Notable Essay” by Best American Essays. A native Californian, Wise lives in Washington DC where she’s working on a collection of essay and completing a master in liberal studies at Georgetown University. (www.christywise.com).

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