{image is a photo of Dorothy’s ruby slippers}

I left for New York on Thursday morning while the girls were still asleep and came home long after they’d once again gone to bed. On Friday, as soon as Brooke woke up, she came into my room to find me. “I’m so glad you’re back,” she said, as she climbed up onto my lap. I pulled her close as she wrapped her arms around my neck. I buried my face in her hair, reveling in the familiar smell of my baby girl.

“Are you better?” she asked.

“I am, baby,” I said, closing the last gap between us, “so, so much better now.”

When Luau called her down to breakfast, I went on a mission. I knew I’d written about another reunion, another homecoming, another healing, another lifetime – and I had to find it. It took me a while to get to it, but when I finally did, I knew immediately why it had been so important to me.

This is what I’d written in February of 2010. I’d been away from my girls for four days, the longest I had ever or have ever since been away from home.


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

‘you can’

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.’

‘you did?’

‘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.




This post is dedicated to our military families – because four days is nothing, three hours away is nothing, my version of “not knowing” was nothing, and yet it felt like everything. I have no words big enough to thank you all for the unthinkable sacrifices that you make day in and day out in the name of service. Just know that you never leave our hearts and that we pray every day that you can soon say, “I am home.”  

6 thoughts on “reunion

  1. Must not cry…must not cry…awww who am I kidding. The hardest part about my time in the military was leaving my son. All military parents have this issue, but only a few know the pain of not being able to explain to your child where you are going or when you will return. How do you explain to a child with severe autism that you have to leave, you can’t…How do you explain the concept of when you will be home when you aren’t sure youself…You can’t…

    All you can do is like any parent, the best you can…

  2. I cried.
    We have a routine (she’s 8 now) that has grown from ” I’m your Mama” to “I’m your Mama and you’re my daughter and I love you very much.” The pronouns are wrong, but everything else is right. The beaming face and warm hug melt my heart every time…
    She didn’t used to say anything like this, but every day now there is something new and wonderful. I thank you, Jess, for sharing your journey. You give so much hope and encouragement and remind me to ve thankful for who my child is, right now.

  3. Sometimes if we miss the clues it can seem like we’re not missed but bug tells me in numbers of ways when he gets home from dads that he missed me…and the way he lights up when dad walks thru the door is priceless 🙂

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