The alarm rings at 6 am for Teen Spirit. But that doesn’t mean he actually gets out of bed. No, it’s Hepcat who pops out of bed and goes to Teen Spirit’s room right next door.
“Up, up, up, up, up,” he says loud enough to wake the neighbors. “The bed weasels are coming. The bed weasels are coming.”
Hepcat has been saying that for 10 years at least. It was cute when Teen Spirit was 7. Now, well, it’s a tad pathetic. But it seems to rouse the 17-year-old sleeping giant.
Teen Spirit slowly rises clinging to every last second of his dreams, which he is sometimes still muttering about as he rises. Finally, he makes his way to the shower but first to the kitchen where he routinely takes a long swig out of Tropicana container.
While Teen Spirit is in the shower, Smartmom takes over. Hepcat usually goes back to bed because no doubt he’s been working (or so he says) until 4 in the morning.
Smartmom waits in the dining room for Teen Spirit to emerge from the shower wearing the black terry-cloth robe with polka dots she gave to Hepcat for their first anniversary. Hepcat never wore it and now that Teen Spirit has claimed it, it’s lost to him forever.
The half hour or so before Teen Spirit leaves the house can be a special time of parent/teenager bonding and connection. Or not.
As Teen Spirit carefully selects his jeans (“These aren’t tight enough; where are the really tight ones?”), his shirt (“This isn’t tight enough”), his tie (yes, he wears a tie. How else to rebel at the uber-alternative high school?), and his suit jacket (again, how else to rebel?), he checks his Facebook, charges his iPod, listens to someone’s MySpace page and even WNYC on the kitchen radio, while he takes a few bites of toast or cereal.
“Is it cold out today?” Teen Spirit always asks his mom.
“What am I, Soterios Johnson?” she often says, but that doesn’t stop her from checking weather.com.
Then comes the hunt for the shoes, a pair of black Bostonian wing tips.
“Have you seen my shoes?” Teen Spirit asks predictably.
“I assume they’re where you took them off last night,” Smartmom says (also predictably).
When Teen Spirit was 7, the Oh So Feisty One, who was only 1 at the time, always knew where his shoes were. While Teen Spirit, Smartmom and Hepcat searched high and low for his footware, toddler-sized OSFO would come down the hallway holding his Velcro sneakers. It was the cutest thing. After awhile, they’d just ask her first.
Now Teen Spirit finds them for himself. Eventually. And when he does, he packs his backpack, puts on his ear bugs and is ready for his walk to the Q train.
It is always a great sense of accomplishment when Teen Spirit finally leaves the house in the morning. But it also means it’s time to wake up OSFO.
The OSFO Morning Show couldn’t be more different. When Smartmom comes into her room at 7 am, OSFO pops up like bread from an over-wound toaster. It takes her exactly one hour to do everything that she needs to do, including showering, selecting with great care her outfit (jeans and T-shirt), dressing in said outfit, carefully brushing her hair, eating breakfast, brushing her teeth, doing any homework she missed the previous night, packing her backpack, grabbing her lunch and running for her Seventh Avenue bus.
It is such an accomplished act of female independence and grace that it takes Smartmom’s breath away.
It wasn’t always thus. When OSFO was younger she was hard to rouse in the morning; she’d drag her feet getting dressed and was often late to school even though PS 321 was just around the corner.
But that was then and this is now. At New Voices, her new middle school on 18th Street near Sixth Avenue, the principal, Frank Giordano, urges the kids to get to school on time — and OSFO is taking that very seriously. She rides the Seventh Avenue bus by herself now and is determined to catch the 8 am. There’s nothing like a bus schedule to get you moving in the morning.
OSFO may only be 11 but she looks far older when she’s leaving the apartment. House keys. Check. Student MetroCard. Check. Cellphone. Check. Lunch.
“See you losers,” she says as she goes out into the world.