i hadn’t seen my babies in four days.
i’d been three hours from home since i’d kissed their warm, sleepy heads at 4 am on monday and driven out into the cold, dark morning.
i didn’t know how long i would be gone – the hardest part by far – the not knowing.
when i left, i’d told them i’d be back on friday – i assumed it was the best i could do. it may take a month of weeks – of days – of hours, i’d said. no matter what, i’ll be home on the weekends. i just didn’t know. how do you explain to a child with autism when you’ll return when you just don’t know? how do YOU live with just not knowing?
but there i was. i’d done what i needed to do. it was over. or at least over enough to have come home.
it was now thursday.
i’d made it back in time to pick up my girls at school.
five more minutes.
i couldn’t stand the wait.
i see brooke’s class first. i break the rules – go running down the hallway toward them, frantically searching for her in the sea of little people.
i catch her aide’s eye, but i can’t talk. i just need my girl.
i see her. she is struggling with the snap on her raincoat while her aide stands by.
she must see me, but her expression doesn’t change.
i kneel down in front of her. go slowly, jess. slowly.
‘baby, i missed you so much.’
she looks right through me, still struggling with the snap.
‘brooke, mama’s back!’ her aide says. ‘when i see someone who’s been away i feel excited. do you feel excited?’
‘yeah,’ she says into her coat.
‘brooke, honey, can i help you?’ i ask
i fumble with the snap, get it closed.
she looks different. there’s a new space between her teeth. the news came on monday – ‘i lost a tooth’ she’d said into the phone. and there it was (or wasn’t) – proof of what i’d missed. the tooth fairy had come in my absence.
‘baby, i missed you so very much.’
‘yes i did.’
i want to grab her, squeeze her, spin her around and throw her in the air. i want to dance her down the hall.
an idea –
‘hey, brooke – want to do the i missed you’s?’
‘i do.’ her eyes brighten. a smile starts at the corner of her mouth and leads me like a beacon.
i hug her tight – we jiggle back and forth as i squeal in her ear, ‘iloveyouimissedyouimissedyouiloveyouiloveyouimissedyouimissedyouimissedyouiMISSEDyou!!!’
she laughs. god, that laugh – my salvation.
should we do it again?
ms W is telling luau about the day. ‘big news,’ she says.
i half hear the rest
in social prags they’ve been working on identifying emotions. one of them today was love. ms B asked them how love makes them feel. brooke had said ‘happy.’ then Ms B asked them what love is. none of the kids so far have been able to answer that question, but brooke said ‘feeling happy being with my family!’ she was the only one so far in all the schools who’s been able to say what love is! ms B was so excited! love can be pretty abstract.
i hear luau say ‘well, we talk about love an awful lot at home.’
i’m in the second round of silly squeals, ‘iloveyouimissedyouimissedyouiloveyouiloveyouimissedyouimissedyouimissedyouiMISSEDyou!!!’
i hear and feel the impact of katie before i see her. she’s come careening into me from behind at full speed shouting, ‘MAMA!!! YOU’RE BACK!!!!’
she throws her whole body onto my back with all the glorious drama of sarah bernhardt.
i am sandwiched between my girls. brooke at my front, katie at my back.
the aide sees my tears. i don’t try to hide them.