He Who Rises Early, God Helps

Brother-sister by Bobby Dacus

Rising Early
To stay in bed past noon was un pecado.  Early rising to get ahead of our day, not to let our day get ahead of us.  If by 10 a.m. we were not up, the calling of our names would commence – first lightly and calm, then at increasing frequencies, every couple of seconds, then louder, until there were full fledge hollers coming from the other side of the door, or inside our room if we had not remembered to lock the door behind us.  On school days, less formalities, just my mother screaming at the top of her lungs.  My father’s long, hardened nails jabbing at the side of our ribs: ¡Ey ya levantense! ¡Hay que ir a laescuela!

Al que madruga Dios le ayuda, they would say, as we clumsily rubbed our entire hands on our faces, inching slowly out of bed, yawning lazily, mouths open as far and wide as we could get them, to express our disapproval of these early morning rituals.  All we wanted was to stay in bed, curled up underneath our covers, dreaming…or not…just immobile in that sublime trance between reality and unconsciousness.  Where nothing else mattered besides the fact that we were comfortable.

Not my parents.

Even though we didn’t even have a gallo anymore they still got up like clockwork everyday at the crack of dawn.  My mother in the kitchen clapping her hands from side to side in small rapid motions, corn between her palms, forming a perfectly round gordita, alternating between this and turning the tortillas on the comal, stirring the mixture of chile and eggs on the frying pan, slitting gorditas at one side, filling them up with my father’s lunch.  He sipping on a cup of coffee, putting on his boots – the ones layered with blotches of dark black chapapote all over the front and sides of them – reading a piece of newspaper, a magazine perhaps, whatever was around to stimulate the brain.  Rare days when they didn’t work, they’d lie in bed, still awake, whispering to one another.  Me steady trying to listen.  Having very little success.

In our home these were the cherished moments.

And With God’s Help
Nothing could be worse than being un huevon and like it or not we all adopted that same mentality, albeit at varying degrees and versions over the years.   When my brother would sit on the sofa watching countless hours of The Nanny, to the point of making a hueco in ‘his spot’ that my father had to fix by nailing three two by fours of wood underneath our cushions, we’d all yell at him to get up; there was my sisters constant fighting with one another about who was going to clean up what – my oldest sister always yelling at the younger one to mop or broom; me forcing the little ones to do their homework, even at the expense of their very frightened tears.  We had a level of expectation from one another.  Unwritten perhaps, but all the same demanding of what we felt was right.

In many ways this is still true.

We don’t leave ours behind, one of my sisters said the other day and it was like an epiphany.  Of so many lessons learned over the years of what we should or should not be, what we should and should not do, how we should and should not live – like in that instant all my parents’ regaños flashed before my eyes at lightning speed, yet slowly enough to be remembered one by one.

Hearing her say something so profound, took me back, all the way.  To the days when she was our caretaker more than our sister, a teenager responsible for kids half her age, when nothing that we did was without the other.  When we were truly one.  All nine of us one single family, one single person.

It made me realize nothing has really changed.

Despite the distance and the years, the marriages and the children, the dramas and personal demons, there we stood.  Her, golden brown hair, braided on either side, past her waist, thin and guera, with the green eyes and simple smile, no makeup, spaghetti strap top, cheap track shorts, barefoot, holding my infant sister above her waist.  Me, a mismatched, chorreado ball of energy, looking to her, depending on her, laughing, playing, being a kid…perhaps at her expense.  The kid in me still there, married now, an adult, but still the little brother, looking up at his big sister, relying on her for so many things.

Maybe I don’t believe all the dichos we grew up with, but there is something comforting in knowing we still share many of those lessons.  More comforting even than the act stealing of a few more seconds of blissful sleep before we had to get up and go, all those mornings ago so many years behind us now.

Al que madruga Dios le ayuda.  Probablemente sí…papá, mamá.