They were typical Saturdays for my parents, but mine were supposed to come around only every third weekend because they had three children, one for each rotating Saturday. Those days started at six thirty in the morning even though every other fourteen year old I knew snoozed a few more hours before deciding whether to spend the day at the pool, the roller skating rink, or the mall.
Around that time, from somewhere between asleep and awake, I would hear my mother's soft footsteps go past my room into my brother's to shake him awake. Come on, wake up, we have to go, I would hear her whisper at a volume that wouldn't count as a whisper if she didn't speak in a hoarse throttle. More whispers, creaking of the bed, and then my mother's footsteps walking away. Then from the kitchen, my mother's whispering and then my father's footsteps gingerly treading to my brother's room. Let's go, wake up, wake up. Silence.
I would lie in bed with my eyes shut, fists clenched, angrily muttering to him, wake up, wake up, it's your turn. I would then try to will myself back to sleep so that I really would be asleep if they came for me. Despite myself, I would listen to them walk away, back to his room, and then back out. Then their steps would stop outside of my room. More whispering, the sound of the knob turning, and then the light beaming through the opening door. Soon, I would feel the soft touch of my mother's hand on my back. Would you mind, she would plead. We need your help... I would burrow my head deeper into my pillow, curl up into a ball, put my hands over my ears, and she would keep pleading, please, won't you come? Just this time?
After listening but trying not to listen to her cajoling, I would turn to face her with tears streaming down my face and make my case. It's not my turn, I went last Saturday, why can't I have a Saturday like everyone else, why do I have to go again, I am tired, I want to sleep. And through my pleading, she would usher me to the bathroom, where I would shower, back to the bedroom to dress, and then to the car, where I would plunk down in the back seat.
An hour later, we would be at our Mr. Charburger's, where we would unlock the back gate in the cool of the morning, walk into the familiar smell of onions, grease, chili, cheese, char, and begin another day. I would start by cleaning the counters, refilling the napkin holders, the utensils, and the condiment trays, clipping more bags of chips onto the rack, loading the soft ice cream machine, and then joining my mother to chop the onions, slice the tomatoes, and then prepare the chili, the onion rings, and the chicken fried steak.
When the customers started arriving, I would take down their orders in my perfect middle school handwriting, prepare their shakes, bag their burgers and fries, and dispense the cherry cokes. Along with hundreds of burgers, mounds of fries and onion rings, rows of chili dogs, and crates of chicken fried steaks, the day would pass in a blur as we fed hundreds in order to feed ourselves. Past ten pm, after we had cleaned the grills, the floor, the ice cream machine, the counter, after we had put away all the ingredients and taken out the trash, we would step outside of the back gate and pile into the Oldsmobile for the drive back home.
In the dark, when we would be too tired to make the kind of conversation we should have as a family, I would once again lie in the back, lamenting another lost day. And I would try not to look at my mother, who had lost thirty pounds in the past year, now dead asleep in the passenger seat snoring with her mouth open or my father with his newspaper waddled up next to him, waiting yet again to catch up with the world and slapping his thigh occasionally with the palm of his hand to keep himself awake.