It’s 6:30 a.m. on the Tuesday after Labor Day, and all across the Greater Richmond Metropolitan Area mothers and fathers will be trying to get their children out of bed and get them off to school. In honor of those efforts, and those parents, I’d like to tell the stories of how my own parents used to get me and my lazy brothers out of bed on a school day (as shared in last Sunday’s sermon).
When my brothers and I were boys, living in that big, old farmhouse in West Virginia, my mother would try to get us up on a school day by cooking breakfast for us, hoping that the smell of frying bacon would bring us down the stairs. And if that didn’t work she would start calling up to us, sweetly, “Boys! Time to wake up! You’ve got to get ready for school!” But if that didn’t work she would move to her measure of last resort. She had this record called “America’s Favorite Marches.” She would put it on the turntable, crank up the volume, and drop the needle. And as soon as we heard that scratchy hiss coming through the speakers we would leap out of bed, come running down the stairs, and turn down the volume, because if we didn’t “Hooray for the Red, White, and Blue” would come blasting out of those speakers at something upward of 200 decibels—the equivalent of a Saturn Five rocket lifting off the launch pad.
There was a three-month period in our life when we lived in my grandmother’s cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. It was a summer cabin, but we were there in the winter, and it was cold. My two older brothers and I slept in a little room under the eaves that was reached by a ladder through a door that opened out into the large main room. Beside the ladder there was a brass fireman’s pole that my grandfather had put in, just for fun. On those cold winter morning my dad would get up early, build a blazing fire in the fireplace, and then come over to that pole and start banging it with a wooden block. Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! “This is the day the Lord has made!” Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang! We were supposed to say, “Let us be glad and rejoice in it!” and then leap out of bed, slide down the pole, and run warm ourselves by the fire, but usually it was only my brother Scott who followed the script. Ed and I would lie there and groan until my dad finally climbed the ladder, stuck his head through the door opening, and threatened us with bodily harm.
America’s favorite marches, banging on brass poles, threats of bodily harm…sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get your children out of bed in the morning. Because it’s true, and maybe especially on the first day of school:
Waking up is hard to do.