A Ribbon at a Time

A few years ago, I was cutting the lawn and saw something I didn’t recognize in the grass ahead of me. When I got down closer and discovered that it was a snake, I remember springing backward in surprise and fear. 

Contrast that to the time on one of my speed-walks around the neighborhood that I tripped, fell forward, and did a header right onto the sidewalk. It happened so suddenly that I had no time to brace myself with my hands, which the physician’s assistant at Urgent Care assured me was why I didn’t break my wrists. 

The previous examples reveal the reason I tend to forget which way to turn my clocks at the beginning of Daylight Saving Time, which started again yesterday morning. Supposedly, it’s simple to remember —“Spring forward, Fall back” — but I have occasionally bucked tradition and can indeed spring and fall in the wrong direction.

Most of us are excited to gain an hour before the sun sets. But I’m not so sure it makes up for the gloomy fact that we have also given up that lovely early dawn that was just starting to peep out when I open my bedroom drapes every day at 6:30. Now it will be another long sixty days (one minute of added sunshine every morning for two months) before I get back to the cheery morning light I had experienced as recently as the day before yesterday. Sigh.

As you can tell, I am definitely a Morning Person. I was shocked when I read a survey that stated about 20% of people think of themselves as Morning People (Larks), 18% as Night People (Owls), and a whopping 62% as “Neither.”

Neither? Most people I have known are definitely in one feathered nest or the other. They’re either at their best early in the day or late at night. Of course, we‘ve all also encountered that person whom we’ve observed morning, noon, and night and decided that they’re never at their best. But their category is more “Nincompoop” than “Neither.”

When I was in high school, I thought I was special being an Early Bird since almost all of my friends loved to sleep their weekend mornings away. But now I keep quiet about it, since mentioning it makes people think that I like to stand in line with the other geezers to score a half-price buffet dinner at 4:30 pm.

It was when I was in junior high school that I remember spending the night at my aunt and uncle’s home when my parents traveled. One early morning, I went into the kitchen for breakfast and discovered my uncle taking some cheese out of the refrigerator and pinching off a tiny piece. I followed him down to the basement where he set a trap for the mouse that we’d heard the night before. Being our family’s resident wit, Uncle Leon then smiled at me, put his hand on my shoulder, and said: “Never forget, Elliot. The early bird does get the worm, but it’s the SECOND mouse that gets the cheese.”

Loving the early morning hours is one of the countless joys I shared with LeRoy for forty years. Having grown up only an eight minutes’ drive from the Atlantic Ocean, he was a sunrise connoisseur. I can’t count the number of summer weekends when we’d drive to the coast to rent an ocean-view hotel room. The sunrise was a few minutes before 6 am, but we’d be up by 5:30 to watch the sun’s pastel rays rising out of the Atlantic. We’d often look at each other and quote Emily Dickinson’s gorgeous lines: “I’ll tell you how the sun rose / A ribbon at a time.”

In 1133, for the grand opening of the first Cloth Fair in London, the Lord Mayor cut a very narrow strip from a piece of silk cloth — hence the world’s first ribbon-cutting ceremony. When LeRoy died, I remembered that in my Jewish faith, we symbolize the Biblical rending of clothes in grief by wearing a torn black ribbon near the heart, indicating our being severed from a beloved and our broken heart. 

A few months after LeRoy’s funeral, I was driving with my oldies station playing on the radio and heard Tony Orlando’s 1973 classic “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree.” That ribbon represented the return of one’s beloved. This seemed so much more appropriate for LeRoy and me than a torn black ribbon.

And, sure enough, on one of my summer-dawn speed-walks heading east, there was the sun rising “a ribbon at a time” — all sunny yellow ribbons on that clear morning — telling me that rather than being severed from my broken heart, LeRoy was now sheltered there once again, to reassure and comfort me every day since.

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