How do You Say Good Morning?

I flounce into the kitchen, execute two leaping arabesques, first on the right and then on the left, and land in deep plié. I rise slowly, floating my hands up in front of my body, then opening them into a whole-hearted third position, and then I launch into a somewhat off-balance, though well-intended, pirouette. I finish with a deep curtsey.

My daughter, Sarah, looks at me. I’ve trapped her between the kitchen table and the toaster. She’s wearing her pink-and-leopard pajama pants and a t-shirt, the sleep still fresh on her face.

“What are you doing?” she asks, in I just-got-out-of-bed monotone.

I step out of my curtsey and leap directly into another open-armed arabesque.

“I am greeting you good morning,” I answer, as my feet land on the tile floor. “In dance.”

She smiles, a rare thing at this early hour.

“Of course you are,” she says, and walks past me to the toaster, still smiling.

I used to wake this daughter in song, gently, or so I thought, rousing her from sleep with made-up lyrics put to a lilting melody. Good morning, my lovely, Good morning to you… Lately, though, she revealed to me that my good morning song wasn’t as gentle as I thought.

“Please don’t sing that,” she said to me one day while I folded laundry on the hall floor. I’d absent-mindedly begun singing the words to myself. I looked up at her from the pile of underwear in front of me.


“Because you always used to sing that to wake me up in the morning, so it has a negative association.”


I’ve since shelved the song, but the urge persists, the deep maternal desire to greet my sleepy daughters joyfully in the morning, to welcome them into the new day with all the love and playfulness I can muster. And so, when my older daughter arrives in the kitchen an hour later, fresh from her bed, I begin to say “good morning” to her, but catch myself.

“Wait! Scratch that!” I say, dashing a few steps out of the kitchen and then glissade-stepping right back in.“Let me try again.”

I raise my arms skyward, lift myself up as high as my tip-toes will reach, and then repeat my early morning performance. Lindsay looks at her sister.

“What is she doing?” she asks.

“She is greeting you good morning,” Sarah says, a wry smile on her face. “In dance.”

Lindsay shakes her head and laughs. She laughs.

“Oh mom,” she says, shaking her head. “Oh, mom.”

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