We were posted stateside for a 4-year civilian tour at the Pentagon. My father’s pocketbook went into shock when Dad discovered that the per diem expense account he enjoyed in foreign countries didn’t apply in the US.  Slashing our utility bills became his avocation, but soon enough, Dad got “sick and tired” of dogging us around our house in Bethesda, turning off the lights as we exited the rooms.

One day we woke up to discover that all the light switches had annoying little notes scotch-taped to them, demanding, “TURN OUT THE LIGHT!” These were companion notes to the equally annoying ones that read, “DON’T TOUCH THE THERMOSTAT!”

“DON’T TOUCH THE THERMOSTAT!” really rankled during the several freezing white winters we spent on the east coast. The tweenaged me hated getting up in the mornings, and my desperate parents devised a fiendish yet foolproof system for rousting me from sleep before dawn in my pitch-dark and frigid bedroom:

  1. Flash the overhead light like a strobe
  2. Belt out a chorus of “WAKE UP A-LITTLE SUSIE“
  3. Pull all the covers and the cocooned sleeping me with them, onto the floor
  4. Run away, down the hall, around the corner, down the stairs and into the kitchen, where they calmly sat drinking their morning cup of coffee as I leaped up flailing my arms, crashing into walls and shrieking like a harpy


With the spring thaw and the rebirth of the Bermuda grass, the Saturday wake-up call was the roar of the lawn mower under my bedroom window (the electric mower with the mile-long extension cord that snaked from the house and, hoping not to electrocute himself with and really spike the power bill, my exasperated father spent an awful lot of time unwinding from his ankles and trying not to run over).

And Sunday?

Blasting The Anvil Chorus from the hi-fi.

Thanks, Dad.

4 comments on “Reveille”

  1. I just love that I get to learn all of your life through all of your memoirs…
    Papou Peter’s image and character becomes more clear to me every read. Thanks mom.

  2. The old folks did a great job… making wonderful, happy memories that you write about today. Hats off…and thanks for sharing! xox

  3. So many of your growing-up experiences mirror my own. In recounting those years, you inevitably take me back to those halcyon days and allow me relive the best of them. Your perfect blend of humor and humility are exactly what we all need more of right now. So, thank you, little Susie. Looking back, life was good. It still is.

  4. to imagine yiayia and papou running down the hallway like twelve year-olds made me laugh so hard i couldn’t breathe.
    i picture them bumping elbows, rushing to avoid your wrath.
    well done.

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