Mornings, Then & Now.

Waking up early is fantastic.

Er, fantastic in so much as long as you have the morning off of work or don’t have to be anywhere until the afternoon.  Let’s try this again – waking up early is fantastic on weekends or days off.  I’m going to work under this context for the rest of this entry.

As a kid, like most middle class 90s kids I imagine, I either woke up around 5/6 AM so I could watch as many Saturday morning cartoons as possible, or I slept in until 10 because, well, I could.  That was the pattern for many years.

Saturdays were cartoon days – early mornings, around say 6-7AM, were for pre-cartoon cartoons:  Looney Tunes, namely.  Afterward things really got spun up around 8-8:30AM, and 1992-1997 was, in my opinion, the Golden Era of Saturday Morning Cartoons:

  • Garfield & Friends:  Always will hold a special place in my heart.  I grew up reading newspaper comics (more on that later), and while Garfield in the years since has been revealed as one of the most commercialized comics of all time (losing a bit of its luster), the cartoon was pleasantly strange, very silly, and made many a kid grow fond of lasagna.
  • The Disney Glut:  Disney was riding high at the time with their animated feature renaissance, but their television lineup was excellent.  TaleSpin, DuckTales, Chip’n’Dale: Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, and Darkwing Duck had familiar classic Disney characters put into a world with new faces that for many of the 90s generation became classic in their own right.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:  10AM on Saturdays?  That was TMNT time, and that was usually my final show for the day, because after that things got typically so-so.  For a 6-11 year old boy, nothing was better than four turtles battling with an armored bad guy and a talking brain – nothing.  They defined late 80s/early 90s kid-dom, and the pizza industry owes them a tremendous debt of gratitude.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog:  SonicSatAM, as it came to be known, was the first video-game-turned-cartoon that was actually good.  Mario’s show was barely on, at least that I can remember, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting.  Sonic, when he wasn’t eating chili dogs, was racing around helping Sally and the Knothole Freedom Fighters fight the evil Dr. Robotnik.  Also had perhaps the greatest cartoon intro theme of all time.
  • X-Men: The Animated Series:  Frankly this show was badass.  The animation took itself more seriously than all of the other cartoons, and the X-Men were insanely cool.  It got me into comic books initially, but after awhile I ended up begging my mom to get these compendiums of X-Men artwork and X-Men trading cards just to look at the interesting characters and all their superpowers.  Their intro theme was also sweet as hell.

There’s many I haven’t named:  Aladdin, Back to the Future, The Mask, The Tick, Freakazoid, ReBoot, and of course the intial lineup from One Saturday Morning.  Everybody who grew up in that time has their favorites burned into their memories, and right when a great many of us were becoming high schoolers Saturday Morning Cartoons kind of faded away.  With the advent of Netflix and dominance of streaming on-demand media, the medium of television itself is becoming trite, but that’s for another post.

Waking up early as a kid wasn’t just limited to Saturday mornings.  Sundays were often a special thing for me and I have a lot of memories which will comfort me until the end of my days.

It was the rare day where my mom and dad didn’t have to work and they were both early risers.  Mom would have the time to make us a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy or maybe pancakes; Dad would sometimes make cheesy scrambled eggs in a big skillet, too.  On occasion my dad and I would walk up to the gas station on the corner to get the Sunday newspaper.  I remember those walks.  It made me feel so proud of my home, being so conveniently located to the main drag of town while also a short walk away from my friends’ houses.  I loved growing up in that part of Charleston – during the 90s it was an amazing little town to be a kid.

While my mom and dad would read the paper or quietly watch whatever was on television, I’d pore through the comic strips in the Funnies, sometimes using my Silly Putty to soak up some of the ink while I soaked up the characters.  It was in those strips, between Sunday Funnies in both Charleston and during visits to my grandparents’ house, that I bonded with Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Garfield, The Far Side, Dilbert, The Family Circus, Zits, and many more.

Needless to say, in the happy trappings of my memory, many mornings were wonderful.

Adult mornings are odd.

When I was working 3rd shift for two-and-a-half years, mornings became bedtime.  I’d get the privilege of seeing beautiful blue-violet sunrises, hear the beginnings of the working public, and just as the sun began to shine in earnest I’d be shut away in my blacked-out bedroom sleeping the next 7-8 hours away.

“Mornings” during that time were being woken up by delivery people, construction, loud neighbors, or my obnoxious 3PM alarm.

With work starting at 11 that night, I’d often have 8 hours alone to do whatever I wanted, which was mostly nothing.  Those were invaluable days to me, which sounds strange, but living and working alone was cathartic, explorative, and unusual.  Not in any sort of big ways, but tiny, quiet ways where my primary form of company was my own inner dialogue and figuring out who I was and where I was going.  Little things like going grocery shopping at 3AM, walking to work at 10:30 at night, observing the world with only music to keep me company, I mean…it was amazing in a way that I’ll hang onto forever.

Transitioning to second shift was a Godsend.  Waking up in the morning to start my day at a reasonable hour was amazing, and not having to work until 3pm meant I had the great bulk of the early hours to get errands done or just ease into the day!  Working when people were hanging out, on the other hand, not fun at all.

Since I’ve been on day shift with the rest of the world, I must admit it’s not anything special.  People are tired and bitchy in the morning, nobody ever wants to be at their job, much less do any work, before 10AM, and the simple pleasure of morning coffee has become a necessity, a fluid tool, to accelerate your brain into getting shit done.

It sucks.

I like going home at 5:30, no doubt, and it’s lovely having weekends off, but there’s no romance to it. There’s no heart in it.

It’s made my Saturday and Sunday mornings special again.  I love, absolutely love, waking up at 4-5AM on weekends now. I look at the red digital numbers on my clock and smile really big, feeling like I’m cheating at life.  Throwing on a comfortable pair of slippers, I make a pot of coffee, surf the news online, and look out the window to see the world still asleep.

There’s no traffic, no annoying birds chirping, no bustle.  There’s no sunlight alarming everyone into action, no time crunch to make everybody paranoid.  It’s still.  It’s dark.  It’s perfect.

It’s about 7AM now on my last day off of a mini-vacation before I head back to the office, and I’m enjoying the last cup of morning coffee in a day that’ll likely be partially spent running errands and being lazy.  The rest of the day doesn’t matter, though, because I had my quiet solace, my tiny perfect morning.

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