I leisurely stretch my legs and arms, keeping my eyes closed so I can sleep a little longer. Then I extend my legs, trying to reach the foot of the bed with my big toe. I'm only 4'9, but if I remember to do this every day, I will grow to be as tall as any supermodel. Mom told me so. I can hear her in the kitchen making breakfast. I hear the lawnmower, jump out of bed, and look out my bedroom window. It’s Dad, riding the John Deere. I'd go out to help him if he'd let me ride the tractor, but all he's going to do is make me rake the leaves. I hate raking leaves.
Mom yells, telling me to get up, wash my teeth and come to have breakfast. I get up and go into the dining room, but I don't clean my teeth seeing no purpose in doing that since I'll have to wash them after breakfast. I sit down and wait. My little sister is already on her highchair, and my little brother is sitting across from me, fork and spoon in hand like he doesn't know what instrument he'll need to eat today's breakfast. It's French toast. It's always French toast on Sundays. I like French toast better than our regular Monday through Friday breakfast of Cheerios and milk. Saturdays, we fend for ourselves because it's Mom's day to go get her hair done, and she leaves the house early. Dad is supposed to feed us.
I eat my breakfast, and before Mom tells me, I make my bed, wash my teeth, and help pick up Brother's toys that are scattered on the floor in the living room and hall. Mom is mad at Dad because he's mowing the lawn on Sunday when he should have done it yesterday. She tells him the time and reminds him that he's the reader at church this morning. He waves to her and mouths we have plenty of time. I look in my closet, trying to decide what to wear. Mom yells to tell me I’m wearing my light blue dress and white shoes. How did she know I was looking? One day, just one day, I'd like to make up my own mind and wear whatever I want. I sit down to read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. I love Margaret. She's just like me, except both my parents are Catholic.
I can't concentrate on the book and notice the lawnmower has stopped. I check the time, look out the window and see Dad's talking to a neighbor. He's off the John Deere, and I imagine getting on it and riding all around the yard. But then I see Dad still has to rake and pick up the mowed grass, and just before Mom tells me to go help him, I go in the bathroom. I yell back that I have to get ready before Dad finishes so he can use the shower. Mom reminds me to wash my hair and to put on lots of conditioner. My long hair gets tangled, and then I cry when Mom can't get the comb through it. I finish washing my hair and comb it because I know if Mom does it, it's going to hurt. Dad’s still outside.
I'm ready. I put on a blue ribbon to match the dress. I think I look pretty like Mom with my hair pulled back. She looks at me and approves. Brother is dressed, and she's almost done with Sister. I will have to watch her while Mom finishes getting dress. Dad still needs to take a shower and get ready. I recognize the look on Mom's face. It's like this every Sunday that Dad has to read at church. It takes about twenty minutes to get to church, and the service starts at 1. Mom reminds my Dad like if he didn't know.
Dad comes in and smiles at all of us. I love Dad's smile. We are sitting on the sofa waiting for him. Mom is carrying Sister, and I'm holding Brother so that he doesn't get dirty. She's got Sister straddled on her leg and is bouncing her up and down like a horse. Brother wants me to do the same, but he's too fat, so I just move my leg from side to side. My stomach starts to tie up in knots, and I want to go to the bathroom, but Dad's in there.
We can hear Dad singing in the bathroom. Mom screams at my Dad that we're going to the car. She grabs her purse, and I take Brother's hand and help him get in Dad's old station wagon. Brother and I sit in the back seat. Mom rushes out of the house and almost trips before she gets to the car. Laura starts screaming, and Mom tries to get her to stop. She looks like she wants to cry too. I look back to the house and pray Dad will be outside closing the door, but I don't see him. I hold my stomach because it hurts so much. I don't say anything because it would just make Mom madder.
Dad gets in the car and looks back. He smiles and asks if we're ready. Brother and I nod but don't say anything. We don't want to distract him. Even though he's only five, Brother knows something is about to happen. Mom looks straight ahead and does not say a word. She clutches Sister close to her chest, and Dad starts the engine. I concentrate on the two rolled-up papers sticking out of his ears. They are to dry the water that gets in his ears when he showers. One day, he forgot to take them off, and he read the scriptures with those things sticking out of his ears. I knew people wanted to laugh, but they didn't because it wouldn't have been polite. Dad starts the car, and we bolt out, tires screeching. Brother and I hang on, our heads pressed against the car seat, we look straight ahead. I know we will have to go through two lights to get to the church, and I pray they will be green.
We are sitting at the first light. I watch the red light and count the seconds before it turns green. There's a fancy blue car next to us. The two guys inside look at my Dad, then look at each other and laugh. The car moves like it's going to take off, but the light hasn't changed. The car's engine roars, and as soon as the light turns green, the car peels off, smoke coming out the back, leaving us behind. My Dad speeds up and catches up to the blue car. He passes it. I look back to see if the guys are following us, but Dad is going really fast. Mom yells for him to slow down. He explains he needs to speed up to get the next light before it turns red. We pass right under the light just as it turns red. I look around for a police car, but there's none. We are almost to the church. Two more right turns and one left, and we'll be in the parking lot.
Dad drops us off in front of the church and goes to look for a parking space. The church is full We make our to our pew and sit. I look around for Dad, but I don't see him anywhere. The organ starts, and everyone gets up. The priest is coming up the aisle, and no sign of Dad. I want to cry. Please, please, God! Don't let him be late. I negotiate with God. I'll rake all the leaves when we get home. Please, God! The priest passes our pew, and I turn towards the altar. I'm afraid to look up, but when I do, I see Dad standing by the lectern, Bible in hand, ready to read. Then, I notice, he's forgotten to take the papers out of his ears. God, do I still need to rake the leaves?