It's 4:14 am - the middle of the night. Birds are chirping already - I thought they slept until dawn. I sat outside - it's hot out, even thought it's the middle of the night.
The birds singing in the dark transport me back to my teen years. My first boyfriend had a paper route. (This was back in the days when kids actually delivered newspapers. Nowadays, at least in the city where I live now, newspapers are delivered by adults with cars.)
Joe invited me to join him on his paper route one early morning. It was so early that it was still dark, yet the birds were warming up for their dawn performance. My dog Terry joined me, off leash. We walked several blocks to where we'd meet Joe.
I had never seen the world at that hour before. It was quiet but for the birds. There were no cars, no people. I might have been scared if Terry the dog had not been enthusiastically accompanying me. Terry's protective presence enabled me to enjoy the magic of pre-dawn, when nature awakens.
Joe, who tended to be a quiet boy, was even quieter at that hour. I began to understand why he chose to deliver papers even though it meant that he had to get up 3 or 4 hours earlier than his schoolmates did. There was a sacred aspect to the hour.
Even the air seemed different, as indeed it probably was since the cars and buses had not yet revved up their engines. It was spring, and the air was the perfect temperature and humidity - cool but not cold, and delicious with lilacs.
Joe took his job seriously, and focused on his papers rather than on me. He had developed early-morning relationships with the shop owners who greeted him. I admired that. I could sense the mutual respect. At that sacred hour, nobody said much, yet it was important to greet properly, in the spirit of setting up the day to be a good one.
The paper route was long. Back in those days, kids actually walked places, so it was no big deal. But it really was a long paper route. By the time it was completed, the day had dawned. I was disappointed to end the enchantment, but Joe and I walked to our respective houses to get ready for school, thus ending one of the most cherished memories of my childhood.