I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel guilty if I rest too much.
Let me explain.
I wake up early, somewhere around 5:30 and 6 a.m. every day. Now, I don’t have anything pressing me to the point that I have to get out of bed. Yet I find it hard to go back to sleep. I always have the feeling that I am supposed to be up, doing something.
Using my third-grade psychology, I think the feeling goes back to the time when I was growing up.
Our mother often worked two jobs and many weekends to provide for my brother Adam and I. So I wasn’t privileged, like some of my friends, to be able to sleep in on Saturdays. That’s because Mom always had a loooooong list of chores for me to do. And she never wrote down anything.
Rather, she rattled off the chores to me, one by one, as she scurried around our tiny apartment in Liberty Square Housing Projects, getting ready to catch the 6 a.m. Route 21 bus that would take her to her connecting bus to get to her job on Miami Beach.
“… First, get to the washhouse early so you can get the good tubs. And remember to rinse the clothes until the last rinse water is clear.“
“Yes, Ma’am,” I answered, still groggy with sleep.
“After you get the clothes on the line, mop and wax the floors and dust the furniture… And when the clothes are dry, do the ironing…”
I often dozed off to sleep as she was giving me my working orders. Her last words to me as she ran out the door were, “… and don ‘t you stay in that bed all day.”
Once I heard the door slam shut, my conscience wouldn’t let me sleep. No matter how hard I tried to take an extra 30 minute to snooze, I couldn’t. There was too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Or so it seemed.
Somehow, I got all the chores done by 3 p.m., although I must confess, sometimes I hid some of the ironing under my mattress. You see, I was rewarded with 25 cents left on the dresser — 10 cents for my movie fare at the old Liberty Theater that we youngsters dubbed “The Shack,” where I met up with my friends, and 10 cents for a bag of popcorn and a soda.
My brother Adam was rewarded, too, although he did little to help with the chores. Somehow, he always managed to slip out and run to the nearby playground just when it was time to help with the laundry. He thought it was funny that he got away with doing little or nothing and was still getting rewarded with movie fare. I did his share of the chores anyway. After all, I was older by three years. And I also wanted to help take some of the burden off Mom.
I am reminded of this peek back at my childhood days nearly every time I want to sleep in. And I am 85 and long retired from full-time work, with only myself to care for. Yet I still wake up early (thank you Lord). And I still feel guilty if I stay in bed after 7 a.m. I have Mom to thank for that.
To some of you reading this, it might seem that Mom was abusing me. I never felt that way. Of course, I didn’t like having to do all that work. But somebody had to do it.
Besides, Mom had her own set of “homemade scriptures” to keep me in line, like “an idle mind is the devil’s playground” and “seldom visits make better friends” and “a hard head makes for a soft behind” (meaning a spanked behind), to name a few. And I believed her.
Anyway, I sure didn’t want to furnish the devil with a playground, and I had plenty of work to keep me from doing too much “visiting,” and I sure didn’t want have to walk around with a “soft” behind.
Although Mom didn’t say it verbally, my brother Adam and I always knew that we were loved. And life for us wasn‘t always hard work and no play. There were wonderful times when Mom wasn’t working and the three of us sat around the desk in the living room and sang gospel songs from the old gospel hymn book.
And there was the time when Mom surprised us with our very own record player! And the time when she surprised me with a party on my special birthday. And the times around the dinner table in our kitchen when my brother and I would laugh until we cried at Mom’s stories about the antics that she and her siblings pulled off when they were growing up in Plant City, Florida. Mom was so funny. She could mimic anyone’s voice or mannerisms, often exaggerating the latter.
I thought a lot about my growing up years recently when I visited my grandson Asher, in Bloomington, Indiana.
At first, I had to remind myself that it was OK to sleep in while I was there. After all, I was on vacation. There were no chores for me to do, and no deadlines to meet. All there was was this wonderful time to just be, and to help prepare for Thanksgiving and enjoy the company of my grandson and the rest of the family.
Several places in the Holy Bible, there is scriptural evidence that Jesus slipped away to rest, recuperate and/or to pray. So, if Jesus took time to rest and recuperate, then it must be okay for me, too. Besides, Jesus knew just how tired I was, and that a little rest would do this body good. And it did.
Bea Hines can bea reached at firstname.lastname@example.org