The night before, she couldn’t sleep. She wanted to, but the thoughts churned inside her like laundry on high. She turned in the pitch-black and the sheets twisted around her until, somewhere after midnight, the baby appeared silhouetted in the doorway calling Mommy…
Come here, she said, waving him toward the bed then pulling him up. Sleep here, she said, beside me. And in the shadows of the early morning, she was comforted by his even breathing and his sideways posture, at angles to hers but so warm.
She awoke before the alarm with four hours of sleep trailing behind her, but she climbed out of bed and floated downstairs to the office to begin a day that had yet to begin.
There was an early-hour dentist appointment for the two older children. When they left the house, the charcoal-colored clouds holding the sky in darkness, the children questioned the mother’s incentive to leave before the dawn.
But it was almost eight o’clock, she reasoned with herself. The lights were out on one stretch of Middlebelt but the dentist was grinning large. Take the children to an orthodontist, then an oral surgeon, he said. Teeth have to come out. It’s too crowded.
Her sister suggested a second opinion. The children to school, then she worked, piecemeal, for an hour, maybe more, until it was time for the meeting. A brief ray of fluorescent sunshine when she passed through the office of a favorite client, waving hello, returning grins and warm greetings.
The meeting was erratic. She took copious notes, then peeled out of the parking lot under a light-gray sky, the air turned cold, the temperature reading 22. In her hand, emails and text messages to answer. The road stretched out ahead.
The baby’s lunch box left at school. Sporadic work, emptying garbage cans, eating a fast lunch. The phone rang. I think you no longer belong in our group, said the voice from Boston. You are more in PR than journalism. But I’m not, she called into the phone, the words falling into a soundless pool at the other end.
I am a writer, she said into the wind. I have always defined myself as a writer. I write even now, just for a different audience, and I am writing better and more than ever before. With synergy, with security, with confidence, the words flow like a Colorado river cresting between buttes and cliffs. Like beautiful landscape, like perfect landscape, the words come forth.
I unsubscribed you from the list, the email read. She didn’t much care but it was that old childhood feeling – not being welcome in a group she didn’t want to belong to anyway.
She misunderstood an email exchange, repaired a deft silence left too long. She couldn’t trace $450 in the checking account. The older son lost his second glove in three days and though they tried, none of the four of them could find it in the school. So many lost gloves without a mate, she thought.
Dinner to the table, grandmother to visit, the dishes cleared and cleaned. Two children in pajamas before six o’clock. She canceled basketball and climbed into bed at seven with the daughter to watch reruns of Friends.
Nothing so terrible that day. Just an ache in the pit of the stomach and the realization that transitions, changes, are difficult even if good.
The older son never came in during the whole hour of television to see what they were doing. What is he doing in there? she asked herself, hearing his feet bang against the wall they shared.
At eight, she stepped into his room. Floor pristine. Clothes put away. He was pulling a red pajama top over his head with baseballs on it.
“Look what I made,” he said. A tower of Knex on the dresser in red-blue-yellow-green.
“This tower is the good side and this one is the evil tower,” he said. Good on left, evil on right, the left side measurably higher.
The good tower is taller than the evil one, the mother said, recognizing the metaphor, recognizing the sweet brilliance in her child.
He smiled. She laid her hand on his soft, curly hair. She pulled him to her.