Early to bed, early to rise, and always early to arrive

'There's Granny! She's pulling up Ivy Lane. She's wearing a purple windbreaker and her gray rain bonnet." Peering through binoculars, my 11-year-old son noted Granny's approach and smooth landing in our drive. Lunch was set for noon. Granny was sighted at 11:10.

Early birds like my mother are as rare as a tufted titmouse in a Kansas stump. Birdwatchers who hope to spot one of this endangered species should train their eyes on senior members of the United States flock. Few sightings of early birds have been confirmed among my generation; none among the teen population.

"I got stopped by a train on 4th Street. Afraid I'd be late," Mom said as she breezed into the kitchen and removed her plastic rain-or-shine bonnet. She flitted to the sink for a sip of water, then perched on a chair. Every few minutes, she peeked out the window to check the weather.

After years of field observation of the early bird, I know her habits well. She's a sociable animal, fidgety and inquisitive. She daily checks her neat nest for parasites. She loves cherries and wild huckleberries. She's an enthusiastic singer with a distinctive "Yoo-hoo! Anyone home?" call.

Early birds pride themselves on "getting ahead of the hounds," as Mom calls it. Although retired, Mom still gets up before the red-breasted nuthatch and rolls out a cherry cobbler or two before the traffic lights ever kick in.

If she's scheduled to be somewhere for dinner at 6 p.m., the hostess gets worried if Mom's feet aren't twitching under the table by 5:30. If overnight guests are coming in August, Mom starts mopping the front porch and polishing the gutters in June.

Not long ago, Mom attended a baby shower for a great-niece. She landed long before the guest of honor. By the time I arrived, Mom had made friends with everyone in the room, invited them all to church, and had a new enchilada recipe.

I've identified other distinguishing characteristics of the early-bird species:

- They never have overdue library books or expired parking meters.

- They don't cross their fingers when they write a check.

- Their paintbrushes aren't stiff.

- They change their car oil before it solidifies.

- They don't race to the post office on April 15.

- They park in their garages, and their spares have air.

- They get Rudolph off the roof before the jonquils bloom.

Early birds do have one annoying trait, though. They sure make the rest of us birds look like dead ducks.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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