the snooze button
“Honey, where are you? Will you be back in time?” I ask my girlfriend while holding the phone in one hand and my hairbrush in the other.
“I’m on my way right now,” she says. “How about I bring us some egg sandwiches with the coffee. What does the teen want?”
“He’s not even up yet, and I can’t get the station to come in. How did you do?” I ask her, pressing the phone to my ear on my way into the darkened bedroom.
“Hey babe, get up,” I say to the teen buried under a mound of blankets. “It’s almost time for your brother’s show.”
“I’ve got the station on right now,” my girlfriend says. “It comes in fine in the car. I’m on my way.”
“Ok, we’ll meet you out in the driveway in fifteen minutes,” I reply.
I put the phone down on the bedside table and start turning the white plastic rod of the miniblinds to let the morning sunlight flood the room. The younger teen on the bottom bunk peeks his head out from beneath the blue jean quilt on his bed.
“Get up hon, we’ve got ten minutes. Just throw on clothes and you take Treat, I say. “We can listen from the car.”
I start grabbing laundry from the floor on my way down the hall, grab my cellphone from the desk, the dog’s leash from the table, my fleece jacket from where I left it strewn across the living room chair. I hear the teen start to shuffle to the bathroom and close the door.
“You’ve got five minutes,” I call out, seated at the computer again, everything I just gathered now in a pile at my feet on the floor. I’m scouring the website for news about the radio show my son is hosting at 9:00 am. Except I can’t find it.
“Mom, do you have any money? my older teen asked at 8:00 am on his way out the door, his hand outstretched toward me holding my red wallet.
“Take the eight bucks and eat something,” I said, handing him the crumpled bills. “And you better go now. It’s at 9:00 am right?”
“Yes mom, try to listen,” he said running out the front door, cash in one hand and the other holding up his sagging jeans.
“I don’t know,” I say to the younger teen who is now out of the bathroom and dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, “I don’t see it. Maybe he got the day and the time wrong?”
“You all ready? says my girlfriend who is back now and carrying a cardboard tray with two large cups of coffee, making her way toward the kitchen. The younger teen grabs the dog on his leash and my car keys from the pile.
“I’ll go start the car and turn on the heat” he says.
“You go with him,” says my girlfriend. “I’m just going to heat up the coffee quick.”
I follow the teen out to the front porch and the autumn air hits my face instantly with a slight sting. Across the street, the maple tree is ablaze in orange and I linger a bit in the driveway to listen to dozens of invisible birds cheeping loudly from my neighbors bushes now tinged on the edges in red and gold.
“Mom, where is the blueberry muffin?” the younger teen asks me from the front seat of my silver Toyota parked on an incline at the bottom of the driveway. I’m squeezing myself in the back seat beside the dog while my son hands me an egg sandwich wrapped in paper. The heat is blasting from the dash and the AM radio is running through a block of commercials. My girlfriend behind me enters the front seat and starts doling out coffee cups, napkins, and an orange juice container for the teen.
“No muffin? asks my girlfriend searching in the paper bags and adjusting the drivers seat. “Damn, we have to go back.” She starts backing the car up the long steep driveway. I sip my coffee and watch the foliage whiz by my window. I feel bad about doubting the older teen, but I do.
At dinner the night before, the younger teen bolted up from the table, dropping his dirty plate in the sink and slamming the TV room door as his mom and brother continued their heated college discussion.
“I don’t see you making any films now do I?” I said raising my voice.
“That’s real nice mom,” said the older teen while shooting me a fiery squinted-eye stare from across the table. “Don’t you ever say that again. Don’t you doubt my passion ever!”
I tried to breathe and lowered my voice.
“I’m just saying its not that simple. Passion isn’t always enough. You still need to take the classes you don’t like. You need to do homework. You need to make it to class on time. Who is going to wake you up after you’ve hit the snooze button four times? huh? You have to get yourself there.”
The older teen started tugging at his bottom lip. In a matter of moments, I watched his whole body language change, his shoulders slump. Did I just do that? I thought to myself.
“I’m just going to end up teaching little kids I guess because that’s the only thing I’m good at.” he said quietly with his head down.
“Honey, that’s not what I meant,” I tried to say. But I’m not exactly sure what I meant at all. What is it I’m so afraid of?”
The car is parked in front of the coffee shop. I take another swig of my coffee and turn my gaze from the side window back to my younger teen in the front seat fiddling with the radio.
“Mom! this is it!” he exclaims turning the volume up loud. “This is the opening music he chose for the show!”
“Hey everyone, welcome to The Snooze Button. I’m your host Connor, this is Corey, ‘hello’ and I’m Connor too” say the three voices.
It’s my son’s voice alright, but it sounds smoother and deeper, like a real radio personality. My girlfriend sees us with our thumbs up in the air waving in the front windshield as she makes her way back to the car.
“He’s on! ” I say. “Oh my god, listen to him! He’s great! I can’t believe how good he sounds.”
“Call your father,” I say to the younger teen. “Here, use my phone.”
“He isn’t answering, mom.” says the teen. “You know dad, he’s probably too nervous to listen.”
“Try him again.” I say. “Oh my god, your brother is the bomb. I can say that right?”
“Yes, mom, you can say that.”
“I mean, you still say that term, right? I say. “Now I think I’m going to cry.”
“Your mother is so adorable back there,” says my girlfriend catching my eyes in the rear view mirror.
“Here’s dad,” says the teen flipping open his buzzing cellphone.
Muffled screaming pours out from the open phone.
“Holy Shit!” yells my ex. “Holy shit, that’s him on the air. I didn’t even know it was him. Holy Shit!”
“We want to be a positive voice for teens. We want to be a positive voice for everyone” says the older teen from the car speaker.
And in this moment, as I listen to my son on the radio with my whole family in the car, I suddenly get it. A real wake-up call. What if I actually tried hitting the snooze button on my own negative commentary once in awhile? Couldn’t I step back and take a lesson from my teen as he talks about being a positive voice for the teen perspective. In this moment, he isn’t worried about the future, or about making a mistake, or about getting it wrong. Instead, here he is, on the airwaves, testing out his dreams in real time. And doing better than he expected even. Isn’t that how it works? And when did I fall back asleep and forget this wisdom that I already knew?
“Don’t hit that snooze button” say the three boys, their voices in unison. “We’ll be right back after this short commercial break.”