Its funny. When I am in the middle of a school year, all I can dream about is the freedom that will come when I am not longer a slave to my daily routines.
I imagine blissfully uninterrupted sleep, with no fear of the impending alarm. I fantasize about lazy mornings where I can choose to either complete or ignore the list of chores on the whiteboard. I dream, with a deep sense of longing, of afternoons spent strolling along the streets of town, obedient dogs at my heels. I dream of freedom.
I am clearly delusional.
I will never be free of routine. Ever.
First of all, by the end of my first week of summer vacation, I invariably find myself making careful lists of “things to do”. I cross each one off as soon as it is completed, no matter how simple it may seem. “Take shower”. Check. “Make coffee”. Check. “Drink coffee”. Check, check.
On those sultry summer days, I won’t let myself relax into the Adirondack chair until I have swept up the dog hair, done some laundry and weeded the tomato garden.
I am a slave to routine.
But the thing is, even if I could manage to free myself from the chains of daily expectations, I would be hounded into following a daily routine anyway. Literally hounded.
For reasons which completely elude me, this “not quite Mensa material” hound dog is able to recall and demand a daily routine as rigid as that of the best boot camp commander.
He wakes up when I do. He stretches, yawns, then lies down outside the bathroom door as I shower. When I come out, he races down the hall toward the dining room, where he whines and woofs until I open the doggy door. And then, rain or shine, ice or no ice, this aging, arthritic old boy goes charging out the door into the morning. He barks with gusto, announcing his presence to every passing squirrel. He flings himself down the deck stairs, barking all the way, then races around the perimeter of the fence, and only pauses to do his morning business.
By that time, I have made my coffee and popped down my toast. He runs back inside, and hurls himself at my legs, his long pink tongue lolling from his mouth with joy. Its as if this was his very first morning adventure, and he is overcome with delight. He has done the same thing every morning for the past nine years.
When I come home from work, he and his “sister” greet me with howls and moans and yips of joy. They bound down the stairs, rub their big warm heads against my legs, and wiggle their entire bodies with delight.
The beauty of dogs is that every homecoming is greeted as if I’d been away for five years. The unexpected joy of seeing my return!!! The magical surprise of seeing me come home at the exact same time that I’ve come home for years!! Hoorah!! My dogs make me feel like a warrior returning from battle.
Although they act as if my return home is a surprise and a delight, as soon as I have finished my dinner and put the dishes in the sink, they return to the routine that guides our lives.
As soon as Paul sits down to do paperwork, and I begin my preparations for the next day’s lessons, my big old hound dog begins to whine. He lies down on the living room floor, his chin at rest on his paws. His warm brown eyes are fixed firmly on my face. He licks his lips in anticipation.
It doesn’t matter to him, or to my other dog, that I have a lot to do to get ready for tomorrow. It doesn’t matter that I’m tired. It doesn’t even matter that it’s raining, or thundering, or icing or that we are in the middle of a hurricane.
It is now “after dinner”, and that means, “Time to soak in the hot tub”.
The dogs don’t actually come into the hot tub, of course. But they rush out onto the deck when they see me in my robe. They bark and jump and rush around for one minute. Then they sit down silently, until I have soaked away all of my pains.
And we come inside. Where they are rewarded with a nice big delicious “Dentastix” to chomp.
This is the routine. They are bound forever to it. And through them, so am I.
I will never be free of routine.
And I guess that’s OK. As long as it comes with some doggy delight and those wonderful tongue lolling hugs.