Always a night owl, as the boys got older and I began to work full time, I was lucky to have a job where management believed in flex time. I could start my hours very early and be home around the time the boys returned from school. This gave me the advantage of still being the kind of mother I needed to be. I always felt that the only part of motherhood that was optional was the fun stuff. It was also the only part I was sure they'd remember. I didn't think that in years to come they'd stand as adults in front of their bathroom mirrors saying, "Wow. I remember when my mom taught me to brush my teeth, and here I am doing it all these years later." They'd remember that I was at their baseball and basketball games, though, or that I brought my guitar or accordion to their classrooms for music. Besides, the fun stuff was more fun.
Working full time gave me a new group of friends, though, and it taught me the joy of being up early in the morning, something I had never in my entire life learned to do. I'd be on the road by five, but I'd be home by about three o'clock. Getting up early is a habit that persists to this day. I'll never regret it, even when I'm still awake and reading at midnight. I'll admit that I now add in an afternoon nap when I want to.
Not too many months after I had started working, about twenty of the women at the company put together a trip to the Mexican Riviera aboard one of the cruise ships traveling out of San Diego. It was really affordable, and with my family's blessing I signed up to go along. The cabins were tiny, deep below the water line, with little bunks; never having been on a cruise ship before, I didn't realize that there were better rooms available. This is why our passage was so reasonable, I now know, but the trip couldn't have been more wonderful for me. The food was great, and the women all got along extremely well. (Shocked about that, are you?)
By now, however, my body clock refused to let me sleep in. Even though we had been up on deck laughing and watching the ship's lights on the water until quite late, by four thirty in the morning, I was wide awake. Rather than squirm around and run the risk of disturbing my roommate, I quietly slipped from my bunk and dressed. Grabbing my key, I snuck from the room.
For some reason, I was amazed that although the hall lights were ablaze, nobody else was around. It took me quite awhile to find a cup of coffee, but once I did, I made my way to a deck rail. We had docked at Santa Catalina Island at some point during the night, and there was silence around me as dawn began to gray the sky. I sipped my coffee and watched the silhouettes of fishing boats and yachts become more visible. The air was crisp and clear, just barely on the cool side, and the light breeze off the ocean felt wonderfully refreshing. I remember that there was only one other person, a crew member, in sight. He was on a lower deck, and was doing something with the anchor.
I'm not great with distances, but I'd estimate about 75 yards away, close enough for me to see clearly in the pre-dawn light, there was a really big yacht. From out of the hatch came a man carrying what appeared to be a bag. It was a bag, but not just any bag. He carried his bag to the bow of his craft, facing the rising sun, and stood there waiting. He was facing the sunrise. I was facing him and Avalon Bay beyond, where the sun's first rays, I had heard, would turn the buildings pink. That was what I had come to see. I never saw it.
My eyes were filled with tears. As the first rays of the sun crested the ocean, the gentleman on the yacht lifted his bagpipe and began to play Amazing Grace. The world stood still. The ship slept. The night owl cried in the sunrise. I had been blessed.