In 1933 Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael teamed up to write a song they called “Lazy Bones.” In the years that have followed the song has been covered by a number of singers ranging from The Mills Brothers to Hank Snow to The Supremes.
The song begins, “Lazy Bones sleepin’ in the sun, how you think you gonna get your day work done? You’ll never get your day work done, sleeping in the noonday sun…” And that was my earworm song on a recent Saturday morning when I slept in.
I come from a family of early risers where, for my parents, “lazy” was a dirty word. My mother was up before anyone else when I was a kid. I would awaken to the smell of fresh coffee and the morning news on WHO Radio. By the time I got down stairs and to the breakfast table, Mom had been up for a while.
For reasons I fully understood when I became a parent myself, during the summer months Mom let us kids sleep as late as we wanted. Once school resumed, however, it was back to “up and at ’em!” By the time we were teenagers Mom saw no reason for us to lie in bed all morning ̶ summer or not. “Lazy” was a dirty word and lying in bed all day was a sign of laziness.
When I was a high school senior, I drove a 75-mile long Des Moines Sunday Register motor route that required a 3:45 a.m. wake-up time. I could have started later but my father insisted I complete the route in time to go to church with the family. I confess to sleeping through a church service a time of two (or more.)
My first full-time job started at 5 a.m. after having already stopped at the local police and fire stations to gather any news that had happened overnight.
Still young and single, rising at 4 a.m. was not easy. On several occasions when out with friends I dozed off by 10 p.m. My friends had fun with that. One night I awoke with my left hand in a bowl of warm water. The guys had heard that this would cause the sleeper to lose bladder control. Fortunately, I awoke before that happened.
Several years later, when I secured a job with reasonable hours, I couldn’t sleep past 5 a.m. For decades, I was an early riser and often the first one in my office in the morning. Frankly, I got a lot of work done in an empty office.
I retired in early 2014 and even when I had no reason to get up early I did. By this time, though, I could sleep until about 5:30 a.m.
So here it is October 2019 and after nearly six years of retirement I am sleeping a little longer in the morning. Often my wife is the earlier-riser in our house and I have asked her to wake me up if I’m still sleeping at 6:30 a.m. The day seems half-over if I sleep any longer.
I recently had a busy week and was up at 5 a.m. on a Thursday and Friday. I went to bed exhausted Friday night.
I recall getting up once during the night for, well, you know. But the next thing I know Julie is telling me it’s time to get up.
I looked at the clock and it was 6:50 a.m. When I asked why she had let me sleep so late she explained that she knew I needed the extra sleep in light of two consecutive 5 a.m. days. Wasn’t that sweet? Yeah, we’re still newlyweds.
She was correct. I had been exhausted and the extra slumber was just what I needed. But the earworm continued: “Lazy bones sleepin’ in the shade, how you gonna get your corn meal made?”
Habits formed during youth are hard to break. While I can never claim to be as ambitious as my parents, I spent my entire career working beyond what was expected of me. In most of my jobs, that attitude was beneficial.
To be honest, I didn’t mind those early morning hours (most of the time.) I still enjoy seeing a beautiful sunrise (just not every day.) The people you meet before 6 a.m. are often the nicest folks you’ll meet all day.
And now that I’m retired, the best part of getting up early is that I can take a nap after lunch.
“Lazy bones, loafin’ through the day, How you ’spect you gonna make a dime that way? You’ll never make a dime that way sleepin’ in the noonday shade.”
(Lazy Bones, © Johnny Mercer & Hoagy Carmichael)
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com.)