By Maria Morera Johnson
Nora’s alarm went off at 5:53 AM just as it had for years. She carefully mashed the button on top of the plastic clock with the glow-in-the-dark dial and shut off the annoying ring. Then, she put on her glasses, slid into her house slippers, and made her way to the bathroom.
Five minutes later, Nora was in her kitchen preparing a quarter pot of coffee. She pressed the on button and sat down at the small kitchen table to wait for it to brew.
At 6:00 AM on the dot, Nora prayed the Angelus, finishing just as the last sputtering of the coffeemaker announced the coffee was ready.
She had perfected this morning routine while she was still working at the bank and saw no reason to adjust it since it worked just fine. Nora was a big fan of not fixing things that didn’t need fixing.
She did, however, fix herself a cup of coffee with one splash of half ’n half and a teaspoon of
coffee. She wanted to taste the flavor of coffee, after all. Satisfied that her coffee was just right, Nora turned on the radio for the early morning news and drank her first cup of coffee.
A small lined pad of paper and a ballpoint pen with some arbitrary promotional design sat next to the salt and pepper shakers on the table. Nora served herself a second cup of coffee, black this time, turned off the warmer, and sat back down at the table, making room for the writing pad.
She carefully printed the date on the top of the paper, and after pondering some deep thoughts, proceeded to make a list:
Nora stared at her list for a long moment. She then carefully added:
buy birthday card for Tiger
She took a long draught of the coffee. It had been cooling while she compiled her list. She smiled, thinking of Tiger, her great-nephew. His real name was Anthony but he picked up the nickname Tiger because he chuffed like a tiger when he slept. He’s such a sweet boy.
Nora went back to her list. She thought a little more and added numbers to the items. Then, she got up and poured what was left of the coffee into her mug and went back to thinking and planning. She added:
8 change the sheets and towels
And then, as an afterthought:
9 get gas
Quite satisfied with herself, she studied the list and then carefully crossed out those items she had already accomplished for the day:
5 buy stamps
6 buy birthday card for Tiger
7 mail card
8 change the sheets and towels
9 get gas
Nora was indeed quite satisfied as she set aside her list and went to her bedroom to get dressed.
The radio stayed on. If bad news is reported and no one hears it, did it really happen? Nora would never know. She returned, dressed for her errands, and turned off the radio. Then she turned her attention to her cozy kitchen.
Nora liked order. She cleaned up after her morning coffee and set about making a small breakfast of instant oatmeal with cinnamon and brown sugar. She carefully placed her blood pressure pill and her multivitamin next to a small glass of water and then she sat down to eat her oatmeal. She was done in five or six spoonfuls, took her pills, and finished her water. She made a mental note of her first glass of water for the day.
Nora’s days were ordinary. Regimented. Predictable.
And, she sometimes thought, numbered.
It was a dramatic thought against a backdrop of ordinariness, but it wasn’t a cry for help. It was, after all, a reality. She was getting on in years. She had certainly lived more years than what were left to live. Like her lists and sense of order, Nora was a very practical woman.
At the moment, she was focused on her list of chores and errands for the day. It was merely 7:38 AM. Ooof. Time moved slowly, even if the days were numbered. She laughed to herself. It put her in a good mood. She could tidy up the kitchen and get the laundry started on those sheets and towels. It didn’t take her more than 10 minutes to get the beds made and the laundry started.
Nora returned to her list and crossed off item number eight:
change the sheets and towels
Then she neatly added:
10 wash sheets and towels
11 put away laundry
Because she didn’t like to leave the house with the appliances running, Nora sat down in her work nook in the den. She put on a morning news show for the company, paid some bills, balanced her checkbook, wrote a letter to her sister in Rochester (they both enjoyed snail mail correspondence), and sent a text to her daughter to check on her (Nora knew it was really to let her daughter know all was well).
The washer buzzed and Nora moved the wash to the dryer. The talking heads were going on about the most recent political crisis, so she changed the channel to an ancient episode of a sitcom she’d enjoyed as a young woman.
Nora watched for a moment, amused, and then walked off to survey the backyard. She was not pleased with the pruning job done by the County when they did their weather prep last Fall to protect the power lines. She made a mental note to call her lawn guy to see if he could clean up the butcher job left behind.
The dryer was buzzing when she went back inside, so she moved the sheets to her bed where she could fold them before they wrinkled. The work was done in a flash, freeing Nora for her errands.
It was lunchtime when she got back home. Nora made a simple lunch, a ham sandwich and a can of vegetable soup. She jazzed it up with a can of Sprite leftover from the Christmas holidays. When she finished, she cleaned up, put everything away, and clapped her hands as if to announce, “All done!”
In fact, she wasall done for the day. It was another ordinary day in a string of ordinary days. Ordinary in its plain, no frills, comfortable status quo way. Ordinary because it lacked the excitement of the Christmas holidays that had just passed and before the solemn days of Lent begin and she finds herself in a different kind of busy that disrupts her order.
Nora liked order. She liked the daily grind of small goals accomplished. She liked doing the sometimes-monotonous work of the everyday. She liked to know that when she sat down for an afternoon cup of decaffeinated tea that all was well. The last items on her list were crossed out with a feeling of satisfaction. Just another ordinary day.
Nora sat by the window in the late afternoon with her journal in her lap, and her pen still capped in her hand. She liked to pray again at the end of the day, another leftover habit from her working years. She reflected on the events of the day and thought about the next day. It wasn’t a formal examination of conscience, but she did always ask herself if she had done her best. If her work was completed to the best of her ability. If she worked with love and consideration for those around her. If her day had been pleasing to the Lord. It’s why she likes to keep lists and cross off items though she often forgets an item or two.
Satisfied with her recollection of the day, Nora watches the steam rise from her cup and it reminds her of incense lifting prayers up to heaven. She chuckled to herself. Incense that smells like bergamot not frankincense. She drank her tea.
A perfectly ordinary ending to this most ordinary day.
Maria Morera Johnson is the author of the award-winning books Super Girls and Halos and My Badass Book of Saints. Her new book Our Lady of Charity, a spiritual memoir, shares stories of how Our Lady of Charity helped her deepen her faith and led her to Jesus after she moved to the United States. Find links to her social media and other writing on the web at mariamjohnson.com